The Lupine Saga 138

“That boy?” Va’il asked while looking at Jin cautiously.

“A long story. So many years of searching, just to be fooled,” Jin said, though his words lacked emotion.

“That so? And what about Grip?” Va’il question, incomplete as it was, brought more murmurs, and Va’il could see that Jin was momentarily troubled. However, the old-looking man thought of something new, and for the briefest instant he had acquired a smile that quickly transitioned into a frown.

“Ah yes. I do wonder if that horrific nation had something to do with it. Maybe, though I could imagine even a peasant would be tempted to run a deception, should they think they could get away with it. No matter, it will be resolved. You have your own claims, though there is still no absolute proof Listus was an impostor, though we will punish him if it turns out to be a falsity. He’ll be kept safe in the meantime, Doufer needn’t worry. If he isn’t false, then that’ll be a problem we’ll deal with when the time comes. But mention of all this does bring up something new, supposed son of Fidel,” Jin said.

“True son. But where are you going with this?” Va’il asked, deciding against accusing Jin further without knowing all Jin was planning to say. He still had nothing more than vague suspicions, what more could he have asked Jin regarding Grip? It may have been true, but there was no way for Va’il to know it at that time. And even if he had, he still lacked a way to reveal the truth. Also, Jin was about to provide a new train of thought for Va’il which would push all his suspicions regarding Jin to a much lower priority.

“Boy, if you are Fidel’s son, there should be two major things of concern to you, though you’re likely unaware of them. Even a true son wouldn’t necessarily know the first. As horrific as it appears to us to think of a half as a potential king, there are things to be done and clarified, proved even. The nation that is being asked to put its faith in a half when it has possibly already been deceived once. And if you want to claim a royal name, to prove that you and not Listus should be the one to take Miss Melonscone’s hand in marriage, and take the kingship of this great nation, there are things that must concern you first, and must be offered as both goodwill and as proof of sorts,” Jin said. He waited a moment for Va’il to acknowledge him.

“Listus was false. I don’t have a problem taking steps to prove that. But I didn’t come here to force Ruby to marry me instead of him, I didn’t come here to save a nation from an impostor, and I didn’t come to claim the throne of Rising. I had to save her, and her alone. I’m no king, I’m a half. I didn’t know of an impostor, but this was something I had to do. To free her. I’m not here to be Rising’s king. I’m sorry if it appears otherwise,” Va’il said.

Jin took a moment to size Va’il up and evaluate how he should continue. However, there was still a plan in Jin’s mind, one that said the benefits may outweigh the risks. There was something he still needed, and knew Va’il, should he be the real son of Fidel, may have or be able to obtain for him.

“Even if that’s true, it’s still in her interests for you to prove yourself in these matters. Otherwise, how will we ever know who the true heir is?” Jin asked.

Va’il felt a twinge of anger. He also cast a slight glance, almost unconsciously, at Doufer, who had retreated into the background earlier, releasing the unspoken dread that he had inspired in the room. To him, Jin’s suggestion was almost a threat, but he couldn’t deny it. He also knew that he somehow could be dragged further down into the world he wanted to avoid, to stay out of, but it was a risk he had weighed earlier, a risk he had taken so he could do what he could for Ruby. Other thoughts tried pushing their way in, asking about his motivations and why he’d go so far, but they weren’t thoughts he had time to carefully contemplate at the moment. There were Jin’s words. And though he wasn’t sure of whether he should continue, he knew he had to listen.

“Tell me. I’ll make my own decisions. Just know I didn’t come here to be a ruler. I wouldn’t be accepted anyways, I know that. And though I’m an heir to kings, I think Rising could figure a way to continue without me in the future. But speak, please, and let me know what other issues could concern me,” Va’il said. Jin smiled slightly, Va’il’s answer delighting him, being better than he could have ever hoped for. The gears in his head once again turned, and from then on his demeanor and attitude towards Va’il were much more accepting of Va’il.

“Then thank you for listening, Prince. The first issue, none other than a couple other than King Fidel knew. And I doubt you know, though it is important. It seems the time is right to reveal it as well, now that we have a possible heir. Think on these things, as even someone who grew up as the lowliest of commoners would know the basics of them and thus be astounded. So, do you know how the king died? Do you know what killed him? Do you know why the water kingdom sent one of their best medical practitioners to be with the king in this final years of life?” Jin asked. The audience was still murmuring every so often, but these questions were ones most of them had wondered about, and among the nobles there were rumors about various aspects of them, none taken as truth.

“Everyone knows father died far too young,” Va’il said. “But it was too sudden. I think I know, and most people think this now that he’s been gone for a while. I met father once, a long time ago, before either of us knew of each other. Something happened that my young self caught momentarily, but didn’t really think of till recently. He was sick, ill, wasn’t he? For at least three years that I can think of, or even more, before he did. So, that illness killed him, right?”

It was true that due to Fidel’s sudden death it was assumed that the cause of his death wasn’t completely normal. The official record did say sudden illness, but rumors of a chronic illness had been spoken of in hushed whispers, as Fidel had done a relatively good job of appearing healthy in public. However, it was noticeable that his public appearances had declined as he came closer to the day he died, and there was the matter of Aoi. Most people did want to believe she was something of a mistress to Fidel. But the reputation of Ens and its medicines and medical practices weren’t to be ignored. Since the audience wasn’t sure, and the subject had been the cause of some discomfort, the nobles paid even more attention to the unfolding drama, almost giddy at the thought of the answers to come, their questions finally revealed and their own personal hypothesis to be proven or discredited.

“It’s good you understood that much with what you knew, however you are wrong,” Jin said. The audience started talking amongst themselves, loud enough that Jin couldn’t continue speaking. They calmed after a bit and then Jin continued. “It’s unfortunate this matter has to be brought up in public, but considering the events of the day, another surprise that should be revealed eventually might as well make its way out now. Sadly it was not an illness that claimed our gracious king. A person did. King Fidel didn’t suffer from disease. He suffered from poison. And so I say, if you really are the son of King Fidel, the nation of Rising implores you, requires you to first prove it by avenging the nation and settling an enormous mystery: who murdered King Fidel?”

The noise was deafening. The noise of Va’il’s thoughts were louder than all the various sounds coming from anyone in the room. The yelling of various nobles, the shocked faces, and the unrest of the room were indescribable. And they continued for a long time. Even Doufer was visibly shaken. Va’il himself was shocked. One moment he thought he was okay with the fact his father was dead, even considering who he was, and the next something came over him, changing his thoughts and view of the world. There was another thing, something he had always had control over. Va’il wasn’t an angry person. But he couldn’t deny that he was now furious, and that he couldn’t help himself but be lost in that, unable to calmly think for once.

It was more than just knowing it was his father that had been murdered. It was the timetable, knowing his father suffered. It was that King Fidel was someone he had admired as the king, not the father he was. And to find out that someone could take the life of someone so wonderful was distressing, and the fact that person was his own father was more than Va’il could take. Mai’ou’s prior words echoed as well, how Fidel had to leave her for her own safety, and the current situation reinforced that. He felt his body reacting in its own way, urging him to take action, but his mind wasn’t ready to move and act yet.

It settled when he felt a hand arrive on his shoulder, and he knew who it was before they appeared in his sight. He closed his eyes and didn’t think while the girl embraced him, whispering in his ear over and over again those small words that she knew couldn’t comfort him, but would at least let him know she could try and empathize with him.

And as much as it hurt to find out the truth, as much as the surprise had shocked him, as angry as it made him, the third death of the day didn’t bring Va’il to tears. It wasn’t that it couldn’t, but not at this time, not this moment, not this particular situation. And he could at the least tell that at that moment, Ruby was the one who was shedding his tears, crying in place of him. It wasn’t something he thought of, it just was. And he had already shed these tears in the past. The pain and sorrow had already taken place, just in the past. Now, there was another feeling. He was annoyed and angry.

Jin had succeeded. Va’il knew he had to do something. There was no way he couldn’t. He knew he had to find the person who had murdered his father. Not just as a son, but as a lupus who acted on his feelings. Not just as a prince, but as a human who believed in justice and right. Not as a half, but as a citizen who loved the man who was a father figure to all beneath him. To deprive the world of that man wasn’t forgivable, and Va’il knew he had to find him.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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