The Lupine Saga 139

“How, and who?” Va’il eventually asked with a little composure. Ruby also left him at that point, to stand behind and watch, to let her own complex thoughts run, her own feelings that were in conflict.

“That, dear boy, sadly isn’t understood. How, oh, if only how could have been answered,” Jin replied while hanging his head.

“The king, the king doesn’t just get poisoned,” Va’il said as his thoughts started turning again.

“A person tests a king’s food, true. And Fidel often ate with others. But only he fell ill. Whatever it was, it was not something that worked instantly. Thus why we thought it was an illness at first. Afterwards the people of Ens did explain that’s part of why the king could last so long, but still they had no remedy. It acted slow enough to throw off when it happened, which day, who could’ve done it, and how, but was still vicious enough to carry through on its mission. And that’s all they were able to do, extend the time. I’m sorry it has to be revealed like this, in front of all, after the fact. I feel responsible to the nation, but it had been hoped we’d have more answers than we do,” Jin said.

“And you, you now expect me to do something about it?” Va’il asked, though his mind was already thinking of how to proceed, what he was going to do regardless of the answer.

“Ah, true. But if you are the true son of King Fidel, it’s not just your duty, but maybe even something only you can do. The king wasn’t able to pursue the matter too far due to how weakened he was in his final years, and how secret and sensitive a matter it was, but his son wouldn’t be restricted now, would you?” Jin asked.

“I don’t understand what you’re getting at,” Va’il said.

“There is a second matter. Even if you could find the king’s murderer, there is a second thing that must be done to prove your heritage,” Jin said.

“I’d only want to find the person anyways. What else can there be?” Va’il asked.

“As the son of the king, there is something that’d fall to you. In order to rule, you must have The Right of the Ruler,” Jin said. The audience murmured, but the tone was much more hushed than usual. Va’il could tell that even amongst all that had happened, the air in the room changed in a different way, a way he couldn’t exactly pin. It was mysterious, but he wasn’t going to pay more attention to that than he had to.

“What’s that?” Va’il asked.

“A son of the true king should know. And only those of the kings truly know. But all of Rising’s kings had it. Whether it was really just an effect on the people in obedience to the king of Rising and their subservience to that ideal, or truly something more that gave an almost legendary quality to each king that no lay person could truly understand, is really unknown. Only the king knows. Which means, only the son knows. Find out what it is, find it, use it to find the murderer, and prove who you are,” Jin said.

“Wait, how can something that nobody but the king knows serve as proof without the king to prove it? That doesn’t make sense. And I only think the killer matters,” Va’il said, getting somewhat annoyed at Jin’s vagueness.

“The only people that can really answer that are those with the Right. All the rest of us can do is know without knowing. The Right is what a king’s unbreakable edicts are usually called. It was such an edict that was shown to I, to Jane Melonscone, and to Doufer, as well as to other important people, that proclaimed that Miss Melonscone and King Fidel’s son are to be wed. We are bound to fulfill that edict. We will obey the king’s final wishes as citizens of Rising, that’s the least we can do for him. Even with all that, all we can tell you is that it’s your job to figure out what that is, why it is, and then somehow use that knowledge to prove you have The Right of the Ruler,” Jin said.

Va’il didn’t understand fully. Jin seemed so convinced that there was something that kings had, but it seemed impossible to Va’il that no one else could really know what it was but the king. One thing from what Jin said did stay in his mind though, something that wouldn’t leave, but wouldn’t yet finish the puzzle. Va’il couldn’t ignore that Jin seemed to think a written edict was a Right, and yet, wasn’t. In truth Jin knew slightly more, and had only spoken what every other noble knew, but even Jin didn’t know the truth of the Right.

Va’il wasn’t yet sure, but he knew that there was something about this matter that he had to confirm somehow, even though he had fewer ideas about it than how he’d find his father’s killer, and that in itself seemed impossible. But he knew he had to do something, had to figure something out, and convinced himself he would do something. If not for himself, for King Fidel and for Mai’ou, wherever she may be. Va’il knew he had to find out what happened to her as well.

“There’s no way he can be Fidel’s son,” Jane Melonscone said in a flat voice. Va’il turned to look at her. She had lost her look of usual defiance. She then mouthed the words again. She shook her head slightly.

“Mother,” Ruby said. She then walked towards Jane and reached her arm out towards Jane’s.

“Get away from me!” Jane said, and then she slapped away Ruby’s outstretched hand.

“Mother,” Ruby said, repeating herself.

“I said get away, you unwanted girl! A half! He tricked me! He tricked me! Fidel, you betrayed me! Kaz betrayed me! I put up with him, and all he gave me was a useless girl. A half! I can’t do it! That’s not my child! That’s not Fidel’s child! I don’t care what my mind is telling me, I know it’s not true! Fidel, your Right won’t work! I didn’t want that child! Fidel, you betrayed me, betrayed all I believed in. Everything I’ve done and put up with, and you cut me off, cut me short!”

“No, mother, please calm down,” Ruby said while taking another step.

“Don’t come closer! I don’t know you. I don’t know anyone. I’m going home. I’m leaving this wretched city of lies and betrayal! Never appear in front of me. You have no relation to me! You are his daughter, a cursed girl who is surrounded by disabled, broken animals! Curse your father, I should have rejected him!” Jane then ran out of the room.

As the events continued to press on Jane left the city of Rising. She didn’t even return to her mansion, leaving the duty of firing all its staff to a messenger. Only one remained, having nowhere else to go, weeping while waiting for someone to come and tell her what was truly going on.

Jane left what she had in the city behind and returned to a province in the nation that she controlled. And there she stayed for the time being, unable to let herself return to the city that had been her second home for the longest time.

Rising, the place where she had lived with all her strength and wiles. The city that symbolized Fidel, the man who had ultimately betrayed her in a way she couldn’t understand and couldn’t forgive. The city of Kaz, the old man she had married and had a single child with for only one reason. The city that was home to the girl that she hadn’t wanted, but had because of what that child’s father could do for her own ambitions. The child that was supposed to be a symbol of Jane’s achievements, her name cemented for future legacies to adore, to give meaning to her life. Jane knew that she could still be a mother to a queen of Rising, but she thought it was all for naught. She couldn’t think of Ruby as her own any longer. She couldn’t bear the thought of the ridicule, being thought of as the mother of someone joined to a half, regardless of the position. It was all for naught, her ambitions were over. All she could do was separate herself, force herself to forget Ruby, the Right, and the final laugh that Fidel had at her expense.

“Fidel, why? Is that why you were looking so content when you finally left us?” Jane wondered, and then stopped. Madam Jane Lucrene Melonscone, the pitiful woman who tried her best to accomplish her goals, but couldn’t accept the truth of what would happen should she finally realize them.

Ruby’s hand hurt, but the sight of her mother running hurt worse. She knew where Jane was going. She knew the meaning of the words. And she knew her mother far too well to think she misunderstood or that she should just wait for Jane to calm down.

Ruby thought for a moment about what Jane had said, but the wounding words had to be pushed aside. She was still in front of an audience. She wouldn’t let herself break. Not like her mother.

Instead, she found herself thinking of Shiroi, who was still at home, sad and waiting for Ruby to appear again, hoping that Ruby would return even though her thoughts were telling her that Ruby wasn’t returning to the mansion either.

And then Ruby thought of the boy standing a short distance from her. And as much as she cared for him and knew he was standing there in his own pain, she couldn’t help but feel conflicted, angry at him for so many reasons, but so desperate for him to turn and look at her at that moment. But there were still the issues in front of her, in front of him, in front of them all, that Va’il had to speak on yet again.

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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