The long fence passed to Kelin’s left for a while, and then he arrived at the entrance to the estate. Guarding it were a bearan and a swine. They looked down at Kelin with mistrust in their eyes.
“Keep moving,” the swine said when Kelin stopped in front of them.
“I’m here on noble business; I am here to see the mistress of the estate,” Kelin said.
“And I’m a noble. Keep moving, kid,” the bearan said.
“I am a noble. And you’re a couple of common guards, only lucky enough to end up at such a high-noble’s estate. But a false move and your employment will be terminated without a second thought. This is one of those false moves. You judge that I, as a child, am for some reason not a noble? Foolish,” Kelin said, and then he crossed his arms and huffed.
“Hey, the kid is in pretty nice clothes,” the swine said.
“A lot of kids are. Doting parents. Ignore it. Fancy words don’t mean a thing. Besides, kid doesn’t have business with the madam,” the bearan said.
“Fine, I had given you a chance. Instead, my proof,” Kelin said. He then held out a hand. The two guards looked down in bewilderment at the signet ring on Kelin’s finger.
“That’s a noble signet, right?” the swine asked. However, the bearan could only nod silently. “But even so, this isn’t a normal noble. It’s the madam. She’s not someone even a duke would casually come visit.”
“Normally true. I come with a letter of introduction, though,” Kelin said. “So shall we continue, or shall you let me proceed? I have nobility, and private matters to discuss, as detailed in a letter. Now, if you still do not believe me, I can show you it. However, I cannot guarantee what will happen to you if you see the contents, as it’s to only be seen by the madam. Well?”
“I suppose we can let an assistant come and take you to the waiting room,” the bearan said. He had started smiling nervously, pretending to be nice. Kelin smiled outwardly and sighed inwardly. It was necessary that he gain entrance, and the best way to do that was to act like a noble, of course. It was something he was good at, but its complexity was tiresome.
An attendant soon arrived and led Kelin to the house. He marveled at the grounds, which were more impressive than any he had seen before. A few items reminded him of his spy mission years ago, but the estate had changed enough to render his image of it from years past obsolete. There were pools, gardens, exotic animals, gardeners by the dozen, enormous trees, flowered bushes, and several more wonderful works of nature that were far too grand to summarize. The area felt less artificial than it had seemed in years past. Though it was all orderly, there was a natural quality to the estate. No longer were bushes all trimmed the same way or the same size. There were so many varieties of trees that Kelin was unable to count them during the lengthy walk to the mansion. It had matured in beauty, that was Kelin’s final decision on the matter.
Though the outside was a spectacle of nature, the inside was no less an incredible masterpiece. Art, enormous rooms, maidservants, carpet, and more, were all in abundant supply in the mansion. Years could be spent explaining the histories of the masterful decorum in just the first few rooms, not to mention any of the rest.
Kelin took in a portion of the surroundings, which exemplified the prestige of the highest class, and then reminded himself to ignore it all and resume his pursuit. The attendant took him to a waiting room, took the letter of introduction that Doufer had written for him, and then left him in the room while the attendant fetched the madam of the estate.
It was a while before the attendant returned, whose reply was that Kelin had to wait for longer. Kelin leaned into the soft couch, knowing that it would be useless to try and rush the issue. It wasn’t of great importance, considering the freshness of the situation, and dusk was still waiting on the sun to drop a little more. For all Kelin knew, there was still the possibility that nothing adverse had happened to his friends. He could be wasting his time. There could be better ways of searching. He could be going down a dead end, ending up no better off than where he started, although with less pride in stock. Thus, it wasn’t of great importance.
As more time passed, Kelin avoided admiring the surroundings. His own estate was squalid compared to that of the high-noble’s. Though hours could be spent examining and explaining the history of the various artifacts, there wasn’t a reason to think of them. It was, as Kelin knew, to be expected. The admiration transitioned into a separate thought, one that was calm and had an element of determination. The idea that one day, stepping into an environment like this would be nothing special to him. To the inhabitants though, it’d be a different matter. Ambition had reared itself, and a satisfied smile appeared upon Kelin.
“The madam has arrived,” said the attendant, prompting the return of Kelin’s attention.
Kelin turned to see the always-incredible Jane Melonscone appear from close behind the attendant. The attendant moved into the background when Jane sat.
“A little boy?” Jane asked, but she was looking into the distance.
“Madam, I’m not just any boy,” Kelin said. He considered, briefly, whether he should be deferential, but decided against it. It wasn’t in his nature, he wasn’t used to it, and he didn’t want to put himself beneath anyone. In short, he sounded rude.
“Enough. I came at the behest of Doufer, and this favor was granted. Goodbye,” Jane said.
“Not just any lupus, but a friend of Ruby,” Kelin said. Jane turned her head, and then looked at Kelin in full for the first time.
“A friend? How pathetic. You cannot claim that. Nobility befriends nobility of the same status. And that friendship is ephemeral, lasting only until the smarter realizes the best way to profit. You come on introduction from Doufer. I know of him, and his occupation was just enough for me to let you consider a moment of my time. However, to claim familiarity is too much. You will go,” Jane said. Her voice was calm, her face pleasant, and her smile impeccable. Kelin decided to avoid running himself ragged with probing, and go straight to the truth of the matter.
“So the old man didn’t mention in the letter I’m his son? I’ll have to thank him. But if I cannot claim to be a friend of Ruby, then what should I do about my friend, the one that is missing just the same as Ruby? I know she isn’t here,” Kelin said, wishing he was wrong for the good of his friends.
Jane turned away, and then stood without a word. She walked over to the attendant, whispered a few things, and then returned to her seat. The attendant, meanwhile, gathered servants and other attendants, forced them out of nearby rooms, and shut all the doors near the room they were in. No chances were being taken; Jane didn’t want anyone to listen to their conversation.
“My daughter isn’t missing,” Jane said.
“You will go through such elaborate details to close us off from the rest, and then begin with such a lie?” Kelin asked. “There’s no point to it. They need to be found.”
“Assuming the possibility, where is my daughter?” Jane asked, her smile gone and her voice tinged with anger.
“I don’t know,” Kelin said. “But I don’t think she’s alone.”
“That fool. Why does she try running away?”
“I don’t believe that, madam. I don’t think she ran away.”
“Of course she must have. That foolish child never does what’s best for her. Making a mess of things time after time, and again! Playing with lupus and felis and swine, how ridiculous! And now she thinks her discontent is greater than mine at this development! Lupus, tell me where you think they went!”
“And I’m telling you she didn’t run away! I think something happened, and I’m here trying to get your help, you, the person with more power than anyone else, just to find my friend. His knack for trouble is exceptional, but to disappear is strange. I know this wasn’t his doing. And it certainly wasn’t Ruby’s. I’m asking you, high-noble, to please investigate. Or grant me assistance. A noble lupus takes what we want or need. But, for my ridiculous friend who has left the scent of trouble of an unknown kind, I ask, and may even plead. For your own sake, though, find out. This doesn’t smell right. It’s wrong. And I am only a child of Doufer, you understand the limits of my authority, and what that means.”
Kelin realized he had been standing for a while, though he wasn’t sure when he had first stood. He dropped his arms, their gestures no longer needed, and then sat down. Jane, for her part, was looking into the distance. A few minutes of silence passed.
“You can go,” Jane said. Kelin didn’t speak again. He stood, walked out of the room, the mansion, and the estate. After exiting, he looked back and saw the sign above the entrance.
“The house of Melonscone was lonesome. Was I not worse, though?” Kelin asked aloud.
He traversed the city, wandering from estate to estate, garden to park, and business to merchant. He ended up on a road around the corner from Va’il’s house. He stopped walking, unable to move further. And then he turned and walked away, this time with purpose, towards his own home.
His own house, his own room, his own walls that he stared at. And, unable to articulate his thoughts, Kelin did all he could think of. He clenched his fist and hit the wall. He was silent, and the thuds didn’t reverberate far. But inside, he was yelling, screaming, and yearning for something more.
“This is it, this is my limit. My ridiculous limit. Relying on others, humbling myself, unable to ascertain the truth. Being left out of whatever truths are discovered. It isn’t right. It isn’t how I want it to be. I need power. I need to climb higher. To the top, the absolute top. I will climb. I’ll find out, myself. Because today, all I can do is weep at my own ineptitude.” Kelin didn’t speak to the wall again. He cursed it, knowing that it was a symbol of his own incompetence. Knowing that wall was the same barrier as the one that would prevent him from knowing anything more about his friend. He knew it was, and that things wouldn’t change. It was a revelation that he wanted to deny, as it meant nothing would happen for him. The problems that had seemed hazy a few hours ago had suddenly materialized, even though there wasn’t proof, yet.
The coming days would only solidify the unfortunate realizations Kelin had. They would also form a fire of motivation.