“Poor Madam Melonscone,” Jin said. He closed his eyes for a moment and slowly shook his head.
“Yes,” Va’il said. He couldn’t think of more. But he couldn’t worry about Jane at that second.
“A year,” Jin said.
“What?” Va’il asked.
“Find the killer and the Right within a year, and you shall prove who you are,” Jin said.
“If I could, I’d try and find out within a day, an hour, a minute, a second. Don’t think I’d delay on purpose,” Va’il said. He meant it, all other things he had been concerned about had been swept into the background. This day had brought him closer to his true father, brought him closer to understanding him, and all the years of loneliness, scorn, ridicule, desire, had been focused into anger at the one who proved that man right to leave his wife. For a while Va’il would let that anger burn. And then he’d lower the flames, as he had done so many times prior in life. Even though part of him wanted to stay enraged, years of being a half and enduring what that entailed from his peers made him automatically control and reduce that rage.
“Of course, and the nation will assist you as needed for the next year in your search. But if it does take longer, the nation will move on. Rising is strong, we’ll find a way of governing or finding a new kingship somehow, even if it does mean we lose the true line of kings. The nobility has hoped for a true heir, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been discussed of what should happen should Rising be unable to find one. You have a year,” Jin said.
“I’ll find the killer somehow. I do love Rising. Regardless of the time taken, I know the nation will survive and thrive. Regardless of what happens. But, I have my own reservations about you, Regent Jin. But until this matter is taken care of, I suppose my hands are full. For now, I thank you,” Va’il said.
Jin simply smiled. He turned to the audience and gave a very short speech apologizing for all that’d happened, and then he left the room. The audience also started to leave, all ready to tell those who didn’t know what truths and rumors had surfaced at what was supposed to be a grand wedding.
Jin left the main hall and walked through a few corridors. While he was alone in one, a man’s voice appeared behind him.
“I saw,” Gardos said, appearing in a dark garb.
“Gardos. No one is near us, right?” Jin asked.
“It’s fine. You’re still so jumpy after that lupus, aren’t you?” Gardos asked.
“Better to stay away from the trouble he brings. But anyways, quite a performance, wouldn’t you say?” Jin asked.
“A fascinating one. That bearan was unexpected. We rewarded him before when he told us of the girl’s livelihood. Who knew he’d do something like that? That said, Listus is still crying,” Gardos said with a small smirk. “Aside from that, what are you thinking? A half boy? We hope you have good reason, or I’ll resume the original plan.”
“We’ll resume with some adjustments now, he is just a bonus. I was hasty in there, but it is better this way. For it’s him. He’s the true son. Even with his surprising heritage, it’s him,” Jin said.
“Even so, why go along with it?” Gardos asked.
“Because he’ll find us the Right! I’ve searched everything, everywhere, and nothing has been found. Every secret library, every personal possession of all the past kings, and not a single book explaining how to use it. Fidel must have already passed it on to his child somehow. Maybe he doesn’t even know he has it, but if there’s any chance of finding it and using it, the boy may be able to. And if not, we adjust and continue. It’s not as though the boy will ever become king. But if we have the Right, with that kind of authority, I can just feel it Gardos!” Jin said.
“I still don’t believe in it. But if there is a chance, I suppose we can let it go. It’s not like anything will help the boy. But then again, are you sure about revealing the truth of Fidel’s death, as well as modifying our plans?” Gardos asked.
“Of course. It’s not like he’ll ever discover the truth. And the truth wouldn’t come out. I doubt even with a Right now that preparations have been made, but without it, there is none. That’s why. If he has it, he’ll have to use it in finding the so-called truth. And that’s when we’ll take it from him, and finally have it for ourselves. That’s the only reason it was revealed,” Jin said.
“Ourselves? Are you,” Gardos started to say.
“I mean, of course, for Grip. You know what I mean, Gardos,” Jin said with a bit of fluster in his voice.
“Of course. For Grip and the Head Lord. Of course. I won’t ask you how you intend to take something that you’re not sure even exists, or even works like how you suppose, but I do have to admit this amuses me. And so does that boy. That child is rather incredible, don’t you think?” Gardos asked while smiling.
“The boy? So he barges in and ends up being the son of the king, I admit it’s fascinating, but I don’t know what else to make of him. Gardos? That look, what are you thinking?” Jin asked.
“I’ve met him before. In fact, he and the girl together, how interesting. And after recalling some other things I’ve heard from my people, I think I know something more. I probably know him far better than you. Hah, now I’m beginning to wonder if he’s actually able to find the true killer. How interesting,” Gardos said.
“Nonsense. Just a silly child. He’ll never find out. But for the Right and any chance at it, he could be useful,” Jin said.
“Think what you want Jin. I’ll continue my preparations. I’ll just say I think I gave you fair warning. Maybe nothing will come of it. If something does, we’ll be ready. This may be fun,” Gardos said.
Jin shook his head and then continued on, and Gardos slipped back into the shadows. Considering how things were going off-track, Gardos was in a far better mood than he should have been.
Va’il opened his eyes, and realized he was looking at the ceiling of the hall. But he knew he had just been standing.
“Oh, he’s conscious again.”
Va’il recognized the voice. But he couldn’t understand why he was on the ground. He tried to think, to remember what had just happened. Jin had left the hall, the audience left, and there was something else. Va’il tried to recall. After a bit he had turned and thought he may have said something, but what, and why he was now on the ground, he couldn’t recall. And that voice, that boy’s voice, why was it there now?
“Slowly, Va’il. You’ve only been down for less than a minute. I guess I got here right on time. I saw it, but from that kind of force I’m surprised you’re waking so fast,” Kelin said.
Va’il blinked a couple times and saw his friend’s face looking at him. There was a stupid grin on his face, but it was Kelin.
“Add another item to confusing things happening. Kelin, why are you here? What happened? And, it’s good to see you again,” Va’il said.
“Zeick told me. I rushed here as fast as I could. And you, little fool, have some explaining to do yourself. What’s this I hear about Fidel’s son?” Kelin asked. Va’il laughed slightly and sat up. His head felt a bit woozy and there was a bit of pain near his chin.
“Why don’t you answer me first?” Va’il asked. He tried standing, but felt dizzy and almost lost his balance. He looked around for a moment and noticed that almost everyone was gone. He noticed Doufer standing silently in a dark corner watching him, and he saw one more person of note. In the front row sat Ruby, her arms crossed and eyes red.
“Ask her. She’s the one who knocked you out,” Kelin said, and then he pointed at the girl who turned away with a slight hum and reddish face.
“Ruby did what?” Va’il asked.
“All I saw was her hit you just right, and down you went. Quite a proficient and technical hit, really. I don’t suppose that’s one of the things you learned while away, Ruby?” Kelin asked. He was still wearing a smirk.
“I didn’t mean to knock him out!” Ruby yelled back. “I just, just, well he deserved it one time, and a slap wouldn’t have been enough!”
“What?” Va’il asked. He walked over to Ruby, who wouldn’t look up at him.
“You liar,” Ruby said lightly. Va’il dropped his look of surprise. He then remembered. He had apologized to Ruby after all that had happened, and she responded with a hook to the chin.
“Yeah, I’m a liar,” Va’il said.
“Well don’t lie again. Or I’ll hit you again,” Ruby said. She then looked up at Va’il, looking both angry and sad.
“Okay, Ruby. I won’t lie. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for things to go like this,” Va’il said.
“Just when I thought it was all going well. You told me you were so sure he was at the school. You helped. You thought of things. You helped me travel. And it was you, wasn’t it? It’s true, isn’t it? You were always right there. You deceived me,” Ruby said, a mix of various emotions appearing in her voice.
“I did. I’m sorry, I hurt you. But nobody could know. I couldn’t tell. But I’m sorry,” Va’il said.
“I know. But you could’ve! I wouldn’t have! I wouldn’t have, Va’il! But I can understand. I know. I understand. Even today, now I’ve lied. But it’s because you, you weren’t the person I thought you were! And the person I thought was, wasn’t. And now I’ve lost someone. Callous, but still, lost, and it should be your fault, but it isn’t. I know. Nobody could know,” Ruby said, her voice strained, torn between whether she should yell or cry or accept.
“I’m sorry,” Va’il said again.
“You have to do some things now,” Ruby said. She looked at Va’il and wiped her eyes. She then smiled. She had already forgiven him internally, knowing the truth about him, the one that depressed her because he had hidden it, yet made her happy for other reasons. And that scared her, because as much as it fitted in with her own dreams, to see them suddenly take hold of reality was a shock she wasn’t ready for. But Ruby, being Ruby, would get over it soon enough and embrace things positively, an outlook not many people in her position would have taken.
“Of course,” Va’il said.
“If you lie to me again, well, no. No, don’t lie to me again. About anything, ever. No matter what, you aren’t allowed to,” Ruby said.
“That’s okay,” Va’il said.
“No, you don’t understand really. Nothing, ever, not a single thing, not to me. To everyone else, but not me,” Ruby said. Va’il had to stop and think for a moment. He was already full of thoughts from all that had happened, but he still had to take a while to fully consider and appreciate Ruby’s request.
“Okay. I won’t. I won’t lie to you. It’s the least I can do,” Va’il said.
“Good,” Ruby said. She then stood and smiled. “Okay, so I’ll forgive you. Prince Va’il, Ruby Louise Melonscone forgives you for lying to her, and for being a half that has separated me from my mother indefinitely.”
“What? She’s what?” Va’il asked.
“She’s left. Thank you for freeing me from everything. Even her. It does hurt, a bit, some, a lot. But it’s the price of freedom. And I don’t mind the good that goes with a new burden,” Ruby said. She then turned away.