There wasn’t much Kelin could glean from his exchange with Mai’ou. He thought of what more he could have done, asked, but it seemed there was a mystery on the tip of his nose, and no way to know if it was real. He walked to the first district, considering how to approach his next target. He pondered exactly how to approach and ask the formidable nobles he was to face, but could only sigh at his lack of experience.
He arrived at an estate in the first district. Between two other well-sized estates laid the one he stopped at the entrance to. Its lawn was mostly easily maintained grass and evergreen trees, though some shrubbery existed. Compared to the massive, colorful gardens that he knew existed in the estates to each side, the estate he was at was plain.
It even lacked a fence or wall, something that most estates in the first district had. However, the archway above the entrance clarified why. In large letters that no would-be burglar would dare miss, it clearly stated exactly whose estate this was, as well as what species they were. The occupants being lupus, no fence was necessary.
“Is he home?” Kelin asked as soon as he shut the door behind him. The house and furnishings were normal, for a noble family, even if the estate itself was rather plain. Art and decorated weapons on the walls, and carefully crafted furniture in the rooms, added to the prestige of the environment.
“In the third study,” said a female voice from another room. Kelin’s mother could be heard chopping and cutting tonight’s dinner, but Kelin didn’t investigate further.
“That’s amazing,” Kelin said under his breath. He hesitated for a while, as he hadn’t planned on his father being home that day. It had originally been a single thought, an impulse, something he thought he could act on without any actual consequence. But his father was there, and that in itself was a consequence.
Sighing slightly, Kelin headed upstairs and towards the third study. He wasn’t nervous, but he was caught off-guard. He thought of what he should ask, and if he should really ask his father all that was bothering him. He knocked at the door.
“Who is it?” Doufer asked from inside the room.
“Ah. Come in.”
Kelin opened the massive oak door and entered the room. It was relatively small, compared to the rest of the rooms in the house. At the opposite end of the room was Doufer, sitting at a desk that was topped with several books and various papers. Above the desk was a window. To the sides were enormous bookcases reaching the ceiling, each filled with hundreds, possibly thousands, of books.
“You’re home today,” Kelin said.
“I’m here enough. What is it?” Doufer asked. He moved slightly and ended up turning his chair around. He had black and abundant hair, piercing dark eyes, and a slightly weathered look about him. He looked to be between youth and middle-age, the human equivalent of early thirties. He was more than thrice that at least, which meant Doufer had a surprisingly youthful look, even for a lupus. Together, his attributes showed power, experience, and confidence. That was always the impression Kelin had received, and one very close to the truth. And then there was the fear, one that seemed to be in the air itself, trying to seep into anyone too close to the sitting lupus.
“There is a situation I want to look into,” Kelin said. He had gradually grown accustomed to his father over the years, but even still he had trouble keeping composure. He knew it best to be clear and direct.
“And? To the point, just say what you’ve come seeking of me,” Doufer said, his face emotionless.
“Advice. Insight. And, though I hesitate, to ask for help,” Kelin said, resisting the urge to cut his comments short or to look away from his father’s piercing stare. He’d be thrown out if he dared to look away, he knew that much.
“Hesitate, my son? You’re being overly frank and humble,” Doufer said. He smirked slightly. Kelin hesitated, and breathed a beat quicker.
“It’s an important matter, a matter dealing with a friend or possibly two of mine. For him, no, for them, I’m coming to you, even against my desire,” Kelin said.
“Ha!” Doufer laughed momentarily, and then stood. He was tall, in addition to all his other features. “Some child you are. Do you really need me, or are you taking the easy way out? How is your friend involved?”
“It’s a noble matter. Father, I’m deferring to you for today. Shall we speak on equal grounds, instead of this pointlessness?” Doufer closed his eyes for a moment, and then let out a long sigh.
“All right. If you speak like that, I have no choice. You’re growing up to be a fine lupus, really. Denying the fear that I bring, that’s good for a lupus boy. Beginning to remind me of when I was your age, trying to face sis. Enough, enough, I’ll listen with emotion, this time,” Doufer said. He sat down again, his expression slightly different, and the aura around him seeming much more approachable than a few minutes prior, and the tension in the air dissipated.
“Thanks,” Kelin said, and then smiled slightly. He felt a twinge of relief, and reinstated the mindset he usually carried when around anyone other than his father. “I’ll explain. I have two friends, a commoner and a high-noble, at school.”
“A high-noble?” Doufer asked. His expression instantly changed to one of bewilderment. “At that school? Which of them would ever lower themselves to letting a child go there?”
“You would think that. But it’s Melonscone,” Kelin replied.
“Are you serious?” Doufer asked, wide-eyed at the revelation.
“The reason, I’m not entirely sure of, so ignore it for the time being. I don’t know what goes on with them, but it’s not important. What is, is that I believe the daughter may be missing. My friend as well. Don’t bother asking why, for the reasons aren’t something I have to give you, but this commoner and Miss Melonscone are good friends, and both were missing at school today. And according to the mother of my friend, Miss Melonscone probably called them out last night to meet somewhere. My friend hasn’t been seen since, and I don’t know about Miss Melonscone.”
“Are you positive? Madam Melonscone has never been one to be quiet when an important matter arises. She’s caused a disturbance over her daughter before, as well. There hasn’t been anything I’ve heard about that so far. It may not be directly related to us… yet it is in another way. For me to not know, and for Madam Melonscone to remain silent as well, it seems strange. Though lately… I wonder. This morning’s meetings were normal as well,” Doufer said. He pondered thoughtfully while Kelin replied.
“And if she acted twice the same way, that would help. But I know, the same as you, that the only times she’s made a fuss over Ruby would be when Fidel was still alive. Has she been just as proactive since then, father?”
“It’s true that she has been much more subdued lately. More specifically, it seems her influence doesn’t have as much effect anymore. She has gradually done less and less as the regent has enacted stricter policies that require less contention. Never mind that, politics you shouldn’t know, and those items aren’t part of my work. Your points aren’t without merit, if nothing else. So what do you wish for?”
“I want to meet her and ask more. Can you help with that?”
“I won’t go there, this isn’t yet my concern.”
“I’m not asking you to. I will go, alone. But as it stands, there is no possible way for me to do that.”
“And so you’re asking me. I could give you a signet and a letter. It may be enough. However, I don’t think I will unless you can answer something. You are my son, so you should know what this will mean.”
“Ask me. You’ve been open to me, I have nothing to hold back, and we do not lie,” Kelin said while tightening a fist in a brief flash of worry.
“Your brothers would figure out a way on their own how to contact a high-noble in their current standings. And you have come seeking my aid. Are you not the lowest of them, with this concession?” Doufer’s eyes narrowed on his youngest son, and he again implemented his imposing aura. A smile flicked once at his lips, and then was gone, replaced by the seriousness required for the decisions pending in his mind.
“My brothers would definitely find some way of contacting her. They are shrewd. They’d sniff out a partner or other noble associate of hers that would provide the necessary means of contacting her. They would use their connections in the best manner possible. There aren’t many high-nobles, but the number of relatively powerful yet still approachable nobles are numerous enough. First, do you agree that would be the method they’d likely use, and probably the best, at that?”
“I concede that the way they would use is contacting someone else first.”
“Then, father, I have approached a relatively powerful, but nearly impossible to approach, noble lupus using the connections available to me. So I’ve done better.”
Kelin had spoken with conviction and in a manner that conveyed he understood the difference between blood and business. Which was what Doufer was looking for, though he wasn’t going to admit it.
“I’ll write a brief letter in a while. Come back in a few minutes. That was acceptable, this time.”