“Where did he head off to?” Ruby asked.
“I don’t know. He was here a moment ago,” Shiroi replied.
“You see, you shouldn’t have argued with me. We bored him away!” Ruby said.
“Me?” Shiroi asked with a tone that didn’t show any bit of servile attitude.
Ruby gave a small huff, and then took the reins of her horse. Shiroi followed as Ruby went into the more populated areas of town.
“Here,” Ruby said as she arrived at a stable. Va’il’s horse was tied in front of it. She stopped by it and scanned the area, looking for Va’il. “There.”
“What makes you so sure?” Shiroi asked when she saw where Ruby was pointing.
“It’s the right time. Besides, it’s right across from this stable. It must be right,” Ruby said. She dismounted, brought her horse to the restaurant on the opposite side of the road, and tied it there. Shiroi followed, and soon they both entered the restaurant. They didn’t see Va’il anywhere, but still took a seat in the back corner while waiting for the waiter.
“He’s not here, and there’s something different,” Shiroi said.
“Maybe he already ate. Well, let’s just wait. I’m hungry anyways,” Ruby said.
“What can I get for you… sirs?” The waiter asked. His expression quickly dimmed when he saw who the patrons were. A strange looking human boy and his hooded companion didn’t inspire any confidence in the waiter.
“What’s the best dish?” Ruby asked.
“That is… well, we are a…” the waiter muttered, and then chirped something. Shiroi’s head moved slightly upon hearing it. She reached into her pockets while the waiter kept muttering in reply to Ruby’s ever-increasing frown.
“Ah, that would be the Spinach Gnocchi,” the waiter said when Shiroi placed a silver coin on the table. She was just about to speak up, but Ruby was apparently more hungry than she’d let on.
“Spinach?” Ruby asked. “That’s not a dish. Isn’t there some chicken or duck?”
Shiroi would have covered Ruby’s mouth, but it was too late. The waiter took a step back, a look of horror on his face. He turned and walked off at a brisk pace.
“Zak, I know you didn’t mean to,” Shiroi quickly whispered to Ruby, “but this place is for vegetarian avians. The ones here are not raptors! To mention birds, of all things!”
Ruby gasped slightly. She knew about the different avian races, but it hadn’t occurred to her that she would need to know what race she was talking to before speaking, even though certain avian races avoided most forms of edible flesh by choice. “I didn’t realize,” Ruby said in soft reply.
“I didn’t either at first. I should have noticed earlier.”
Shiroi then nodded, knowing that Ruby honestly didn’t mean any harm. But the harm was done; it was too late to correct it. All Shiroi could think of was to exit the restaurant quickly before causing any more disturbances.
The two of them rushed out the front door, and then ran to their horses. As they fiddled with the reins, Ruby glanced back over her shoulder. She took a second look, and then dropped the reins she was holding.
“Zak! Be quick about it, please,” Shiroi said. But Ruby didn’t reply. She pointed across the street. Shiroi hesitated for a moment, and then turned to look. Her eyes opened wide as she realized what Ruby wasn’t pointing towards. She wasn’t pointing at Va’il’s horse, as it was no longer there.
“Where… where did he go? When was he here?” Ruby muttered. Her attention went back to the horse, and soon she was on top of it. There was a commotion arising within the adjacent restaurant, so Ruby and Shiroi hastened down the roadway at a quick trot.
They trotted down one road, galloped down the next, and stopped at the last. Whether it was planned or not, there was a crowd of avians in their path, waiting for them.
“The other two!”
Before another moment could pass, a group of guards surrounded Shiroi and Ruby. The one that appeared to be in charge held up one hand to the crowd, silencing them, and then held a palm out towards Ruby.
“Sir. Please dismount and follow me. Immediately,” the head guard said. His tone was friendly yet forceful. Thankful that there was some civility to their arrest, Shiroi jumped off the horse. Ruby darted a look at her, but didn’t utter a word. She couldn’t see Shiroi’s expression, but she wondered what she should do. She could either comply, or stay on the horse. She was a high-noble, and all she had to do was make that known. She pondered for a moment, wondering what Jane would do.
Ruby recoiled at her own realization. She was considering what her mother would do in the same situation! Ruby quickly let go of the horse’s reins, dismounted, and stood next to Shiroi. She took in a breath and spoke deeply.
“Guard, please explain why you are detaining us first,” Ruby said with determination.
“Certainly. A report of three strange humans was received. Those who aren’t residents of Rising should be more open with the authorities as to who they are. Those who cross the border without authorization will be investigated. We’ve already got your accomplice. No more questions, come with me for now,” the head guard said.
She didn’t understand what the guard meant, and so Ruby couldn’t think of a reply. “A misunderstanding? Our accomplice? Va’il!” Ruby thought. Deciding it was more important to see what trouble Va’il had caused, Ruby obediently followed the authorities.
After a short walk, they arrived at the guards’ office. Sure enough, in a nearby cell sat a complacent Va’il. He was laying on a bed, one leg crossed over the other.
“These your companions?” the guard asked of Va’il. Va’il looked up, saw the two girls, and smiled.
“Are they?” Va’il asked. He flashed a wide grin. Va’il moved his hands from the back of his head to in front of him, revealing that his hands were bound with a coil of rope. Ruby watched the head guard closely, and noticed a slight twitch in his cheek at Va’il’s comment.
“Bah, the report said three humans. Maybe it was wrong. Just as well, maybe this one isn’t human either,” the head guard said. Before she could react, the avian had snatched Ruby’s hat off.
Unbridled, Ruby’s long golden hair fell. The avian took a step back, somewhat shocked. Va’il laughed a little as he saw the man’s surprised expression.
“Why the surprise?” Va’il asked, still smiling.
“A… a human girl? This… this. Hmm,” the avian said as he gradually regained his composure. Now that he had a good look at her, he realized that anyone would be able to tell she was female. But being in an avian-only area for the most part, the necessary connections were never made in his or the other natives’ minds. They all made the mistake of judging by basic appearance.
“Just go in while we figure out what to do,” the avian snapped as he opened the wooden door of the cell next to Va’il’s. He put Ruby and Shiroi inside, but didn’t think to un-hood Shiroi. He was already preoccupied. After doing so, he latched a brass lock, snapped at a subordinate to watch the children, and then left the building.