“No, he isn’t. I’m quite sure,” De’un said.
“But, but that can’t be right! Mother heard it herself! And she wouldn’t lie to me when I’d have to brave such dangers! No, you must have been kept in the dark,” Ruby said. Her voice quivered slightly while she spoke.
Ruby looked much different from the day before, as De’un had provided clothes for her. Her hair was mostly down, though the right side had a comb in it. She was dressed simply, in a teal blouse and a silver skirt. Standing near to her was Shiroi, also in clean attire. Va’il was not in the room.
“Ha, in the dark? Miss, you underestimate me. Farley is the only city on the border, at the only possible river crossing. Now, I assure you, being the lord of the southeastern lands, I am aware of every development, large or small, whether or not someone wants me to know. The only information out of Farley was the notice that a group of foreign humans had crossed the border. Although, they did make it through without being caught. Anyways, the captain of the fort personally wrote me a letter detailing such. He surely wouldn’t fail to mention the arrival of Darius, would he? No, no, no. He isn’t here, or there,” De’un said. He added for emphasis, “He isn’t!”
“Sir, this might have happened months ago, it’s not necessarily recent,” Shiroi said.
“Yes yes, I know. But ever since Fidel’s untimely passing, travel to the south has vastly declined. A few trade carts, a couple families, at most. And all of them were accounted for. And this story about an outside threat? That would have come from the captain as well! There is no threat,” De’un said.
“But what does this mean?” Ruby asked, mostly to herself.
“Simple. Your mother either lied, or was lied to. I doubt she would incite you in such manner, therefore she was misled.” De’un said. He was about to speak again, but Ruby had already started speaking.
“Marquis, I’ll go there myself. I wouldn’t doubt your word, but I have to confirm with my own eyes. I’ll thank you for your help either way,” Ruby said. Her gaze moved away from De’un and upwards in silent thought.
“You’re set on it. That’s fine. Tell me if it turns out I am wrong. I’d want to know if my information network is incomplete, of course,” De’un said. He sighed deeply. Ruby took attention of De’un again, and then smiled.
“Yes, of course. Meanwhile, I didn’t come just to see Darius. You too, sir, have my interest,” Ruby said.
“Oh ho! Well, I suppose I was expecting the Melonscone pleasantries to arrive, after our last meeting,” De’un replied.
Shiroi took note of a nod in her direction from Ruby. Business matters were at hand, so Shiroi didn’t need to be present. It was for De’un’s sake, not Ruby’s, as most nobles were wary of other peoples’ servants. Even if De’un wasn’t, Shiroi was planning to find Va’il anyways.
Shiroi left the room, closing the solid oak doors behind her. She looked up and down the large hallway, and then walked to the right. After a while, she came to an open yard, where Va’il happened to be. A small pond, a few large rocks, and a garden of flowers occupied the yard. Va’il was standing over the pond.
“Hungry?” Shiroi asked in a teasing tone. Va’il looked back at her, then looked back at the pond full of small fish. He held out his right arm and extended a few claws.
“Three swipes, and then lunch will be ready,” Va’il said with complete seriousness.
“That would be somewhat rude, wouldn’t it? Towards the chefs who prepared breakfast not that long ago, of course,” Shiroi said. She walked over to the pond and squatted down. She put a finger in the water, and watched as a few small red fishes surrounded her small talon. Va’il looked at her, but didn’t say anything. Instead, he too squatted and stirred the pond a bit. Some time passed, and eventually the two of them made their way back to the guest room they had stayed in the prior night.
To Va’il and Shiroi’s surprise, Ruby was already in the room, and in her boyish outfit.
“Get ready,” Ruby said, “we’re leaving.”
“What?” the two asked in unison.
“Get changed, get ready, and let’s go. Well don’t just stand there! Shiroi, no, Reft, please make sure that we’re stocked up on provisions. De’un will supply anything more we need, so I leave it to you,” Ruby said. With that, she walked out of the room, and went in the direction of the stables.
“Might as well hurry,” Va’il said, the curl of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Of course. We are only here on her whims, after all. We should go on one as well, Master Va’il,” Shiroi said in reply. She and Va’il laughed a bit, and then went to work.
Yet another surprise awaited the duo. Ruby had asked for a carriage to ride out of De’un’s domicile in. Once they were a good ways away from De’un’s estate, the children stepped out and took rein of their own horses. The trio waited for a while until Ruby was sure the servants had returned to De’un’s residence.
“I want to try something, thus the carriage. Come on, we’re going back,” Ruby said. And so the trio rode back, even though two of them were utterly confused. Soon they arrived at the gates where two guards were standing. Ruby dismounted and started walking towards the gates.
“What business do you have here?” the brown-feathered avian guard asked. The blue-feathered avian next to him stared without speaking.
“I’ve come to speak with the master of the land,” Ruby said. She stood straight and dignified, but her clothes didn’t match her demeanor.
“Wait, you’re with that other one? So again? Didn’t I already say no? Get along now, no reason for peasants to be speaking with De’un. Take it up with the city guard if you have an issue,” the brown-feathered avian said.
“I’m nobility, and I know him personally. Please let us pass.” Ruby said. The blue-feathered avian gave a sideways glance to the brown one.
“Ha, you think we’re listening to that nonsense? Run along, silly common child,” the brown-feathered avian said.
“I’m a high-noble, do you recognize my ring?” Ruby asked. She held up her left hand. There was a ring on her middle finger, with the top of the ring turned inwards. She held her palm up, showing the face of the ring to the guards.
The guards turned to look at each other. They each chirped a few words, and then turned to face Ruby again.
“Sir,” the blue-feathered avian said, “go home. Your trinket is quite impressive, and whomever you bought such an exquisitely designed ring from was certainly a master. But these are serious matters. We must guard our master, and we don’t have time to play around with your silly whims. Go play with the other children elsewhere.”
The two avians looked at each other and laughed, and then walked back to their posts. Ruby eventually turned and walked back to Shiroi and Va’il.
“So you were right. It wouldn’t have mattered anyways. Well, now I’m glad things worked out they way they did. Thank you Va’il,” Ruby said. She then mounted her horse and urged it onwards.
“I guess, you’re welcome,” Va’il said, though only Shiroi heard him. She hid a wide smile under her large hood. Va’il wore a look of confused wonder for a moment, but then he smiled and shrugged. Together, the two of them caught up to Ruby before she reached the city exit.