The Lupine Saga 9

“Pete’s already at the north gate, and some of the other kids already left for Tershi,” Kelin said. Both Va’il and Kelin had large backpacks on. They were going to leave for Tershi soon, once the rest of their group arrived. A few of the parents were willing to watch the kids, as was Sensei, who felt it was his duty to help whether they were at school or not.

“Alone?” Va’il asked.

“No, they were guided by one of their parents. I think it was an older group of kids, so they should be fine with just one. It is only a half-day’s walk after all,” Kelin said.

Va’il nodded and kept walking down the road with Kelin. Once the north gate was in view, they spotted Pete, Jo’se, Harnes, Rowlf, and Hein. Hein was another swine and the cousin of Pete. He was also in their class, but he and Pete never spoke with each other at school. They did like each other, but they didn’t want to be friends. Va’il had thought it odd that you could like someone and not want to be their friend, but Pete explained that it was common among swine. He said that, for the most part, they could feel whom they should have as a friend. Once they had that feeling, it was hard to break it. It was part of the reason why Pete stuck with Va’il, even through constant taunts and ridicule. It was simply in his nature to be like that. Va’il had a difficult time understanding, and would ask Mai’ou about it once he settled on what, exactly, he would be asking.

“Va’il, Kelin!” Jo’se started running over to meet them as quickly as his avian body could handle.

“Jo?” Kelin was a bit taken back at having another child other than Pete approach the duo.

“Jo’se, please. I like my full name. Do you know its meaning?” Jo’se was overflowing with excitement. “Oh, but first, our group is being led by Sensei! We get him! Isn’t that great?” Va’il smiled and grabbed Jo’se’s hand. He shook it a couple times as the boy smiled with glee.

“I know its meaning now. ‘Se’ is shine. ‘Jo’ is distance. It probably means: Shining in the distance,” Va’il explained intelligently. Even Kelin was impressed.

“Yes! I knew you were a right person! I’m sorry for before, avoiding you and all. But now we have the expressed approval of the king himself! No one, bully, parent, teacher, or otherwise can stop us from being friends!” Va’il suddenly felt the overflowing excitement spill out from Jo’se and into him, but Harnes was about to interrupt that.

“Bird brain.” A loud thwack was heard as Harnes dropped the side of a book onto Jo’se’s head. The smile on his face was replaced with tears, but he didn’t protest. He simply looked down and walked sideways a couple steps. Va’il was stunned at the event, but Harnes walked right past Jo’se and bowed before Va’il.

“Harnes, the only daughter of Nemui, father, and Yowake, mother. My name as given doesn’t mean anything, but it is close to ‘harn,’ meaning number. I happen to like shiny things. I get bored easily and I sleep when I am.” She was explaining herself frankly in both Kelin and Va’il’s opinions.

“And I don’t sleep whenever I see you. Your hair is so shiny and wonderful. You are so much better than my raven feathers. We are going to be together from now on,” Harnes said in a different tone than before.

“Uh, Va’il, I think she likes you,” Kelin said. Harnes stopped paying attention to anyone else and grabbed hold of Va’il’s arm. She was quite a bit shorter; her head reached only the top of Va’il’s shoulder.

“Does she?” Va’il wasn’t sure what to make of this new attachment to his arm. Harnes had closed her eyes and was apparently sleeping. Was she kidding about not sleeping when looking at him, he wondered. He walked a couple steps forward, and Harnes kept in step with him. If she was asleep, then she could still walk just fine. Jo’se, who was still rubbing his head, looked on sadly.

“Aw no. She’s attached to you Va’il. I really like her too. But she’s gone for now. You’ll have to learn to live with it for a while, until she’s moved on. Well, it’s probably been a long time coming,” Jo’se said.

“A long time coming?” Va’il asked with a quiver in his voice.

“Yeah, she really has a love of shiny things,” Jo’se said. “Your eyes, hair, and tail are silver, which to her probably conveys more emotion than what you might consider love. She’s a descendant of collectors. I’ve seen her grab a new spoon that had been freshly shined and not let go of it until her parents entered her room while asleep and rub dirt on it while it remain clenched in her sleeping hands. The next morning she simply washed the dirt off, and used the spoon to eat her breakfast that morning. After which, she left it at home to be cleaned. So… do you want to roll around in the dirt for a while?”

At this point Kelin was laughing so hard he seemed to be in agony. He regained composure only long enough to say one thing: “But I bet she loves his eyes, and no amount of rolling in dirt is going to change them from such a gorgeous color.” He spoke cynically, but Va’il just laughed, as he knew how much Kelin enjoyed this small revenge. Va’il considered whether he should bring up the kiss again. He decided he better not. So instead, he caught Pete’s eye, motioned towards Kelin, pointed at his own cheek, and made a kissing motion.

Pete looked down at the howling lupus who seemed just a little wilder than usual. He took the hint and walked up to Kelin, and whispered something to him. The laughing stopped. Kelin stood up straight and looked around.

“Oh, Sensei is right over there. It’s about time to get moving. Don’t fall behind, gorgeous.” Kelin snickered once more in an effort to conceal his own blushing, and then walked over to Hein and Rowlf, both of which were staring at the Va’il-Harnes combo with wide grins. They all shook hands in turn, and then took a couple of laughs at the combo. Soon enough, Sensei had arrived.

“I see Miss Harnes won’t be lost that easily. That’s good, I was worried she may fall asleep while walking and get in trouble somewhere,” Sensei said with a straight face that didn’t match his teasing words. That was, of course, even more humorous. Va’il decided at that moment that he should quickly learn how to deal with this. He still wasn’t sure if he was being treated as an object or not. He did see the humor in the situation, as well as the side of a classmate he had never been able to associate with before. For better or worse, he thought, I’ve made more friends.

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The Lupine Saga 8

The young trio celebrated in Va’il’s house that night. Mai’ou had prepared a rack of lamb for them, for which Pete especially showed appreciation.

“So boys, that went better than you were expecting. Compliments of Fidel, the king himself,” Mai’ou said.

“It was fun. I liked my part. I got to be complicated and mean,” Kelin said while laughing.

“I wrote it with some class members in mind. The major parts went to those I was expecting,” Va’il said while picking something out of his teeth.

“Including Rowlf? How did you decide to make that bakery-obsessed bear the star? I’ve really been wondering how you knew he would fit that role,” Pete asked.

“Because the lead had to be someone with a long lasting and deep voice. You can tell from his normal speech that his voice doesn’t change when singing,” Va’il replied.

“Huh, I should have noticed. Well, I guess you have to look for a particular quality to notice it,” Kelin said. He was slightly annoyed that he didn’t know about Rowlf’s voice beforehand, but his tone didn’t betray his thoughts. He thought his ears were better than Va’il’s were, but he still had to concede that he could not hear what he was not listening for.

“A few more minutes and the blueberry pie will be done,” Mai’ou said.

“Thanks Mum. Say Mum, what do you think of how Kelin stood up for me. Brave, wasn’t it?” Va’il was teasing Kelin, who had started growling at him to be quiet.

“And shouldn’t he get a reward for it? It was the king, yet my friend here stood tall and spoke direct,” Pete said while playing along. The threats Kelin muttered went ignored, but the boys knew he was happy. Mai’ou said nothing, and checked the oven to see how close the pie was to done. It was close, so she didn’t add any more wood to the fire. Amongst the jeering of the two boys, she simply walked over to the trio and gave Kelin a kiss on the cheek.

The jeers stopped, as there were now three shocked faces in the room. Her reward given, Mai’ou smiled, walked back to the oven, and pulled out the blueberry dessert.

“Va’il, if your mouth hangs open any longer, your food will fall out. Haven’t I told you to always keep your mouth closed when eating?” The boys all looked at her, still astounded. “Come on boys, it’s not such a bit deal. I’m not a kid; these kinds of things aren’t that shocking.” With that, the boys regained composure. Kelin silently swore to himself he wouldn’t wash the side of his face for the next week, while Va’il started asking himself if he could really bear to have his friend as a stepfather. Pete smelled the pie, which occupied his thoughts for the next few days.

When Kelin and Pete finally left, it was quite late into the night. They had spent the time discussing their plans in the coming weeks, now that school was dismissed. They decided to go with the rest of their class after all, on a trip to the lake a few of the other students had been planning. They had gotten the idea from the return of the king, since he was returning from the water kingdom. In a celebration of sorts, they decided to visit the lake north of the city, Lake Tershi.

The moon had risen far above the castle already. Va’il and Mai’ou were still awake, sitting together in a large chair, discussing life.

“Va’il, did you enjoy yourself?” Mai’ou asked.

“Yeah,” Va’il replied.

“How do you feel?”

“Stuffed. Are you sure that was a lamb, and not a fully grown sheep?”

“Silly,” she said, “you are too funny at times.”

“I’m still learning. You’re a good teacher for that kind of stuff. Good at making me worry too,” he said. He looked up and saw Mai’ou’s golden eyes staring back at his silver ones.

“Are you still going on about that? Trust me, silly little boy, that there is a very large difference between love and a crush. I think of him like I think of you, a son who just needs to be teased from time to time. Silly boy, I can’t believe you’re so serious about that.”

“Who’s the one worrying now?” Va’il asked slyly. Mai’ou laughed and kissed him on the cheek as well.

“I admit you’re crafty for someone your age. Say Va’il, what you said earlier, was it true?”

“Which part? When?”

“About your father.”

“Every word. He left you, didn’t he?”

“Well… he has his problems. I don’t think you should condemn him though.”

“Why? Who was he? You don’t ever talk about him.” Va’il looked to Mai’ou for an answer, but she remained silent for a few minutes. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything before her though.

“He is a happy person. He’s optimistic, but he has more worries than optimism can account for. He is hard to change. He doesn’t always speak his mind either. But it is easy to get to know him. A day with him is like ten years. You know everything about him quickly just from how he behaves. But he isn’t easy to settle, in any circumstance. He didn’t leave because of pride or fear either. It might be his worst trait. I always have feared that he never seriously cared for me. I might have just been something for the moment, for that time. I might have loved him then, but he… why am I telling you this?” Mai’ou questioned herself, her reasons for telling Va’il, but in her heart she knew she would have to talk about her husband with Va’il sooner or later. She decided to talk a little now, and more at a later time.

“So, he seemed good, but really he was bad?” Va’il asked.

“No, he is genuine, that is not an act. But for him, it might have only been temporary. I doubt I will ever really know.”

“You talk kind of like he is still around.” Va’il noticed that his mother was speaking in the present-tense.

“You’re astute, just like King Fidel said. I don’t think I can talk about him anymore.”

“Can I ask you another thing Mum?”

“Okay, what is it?”

“Do you know what he thinks of me?” Va’il asked, but again Mai’ou didn’t respond. She hesitated, but she resolved to tell Va’il anyways.

“He… I never told him. I didn’t have the chance. I’m sure that if he knew, he’d be proud to have such a smart and brave son. Just remember that it was not your fault he left, no matter what others may say or taunt you with. You have to make your father proud by being happy and optimistic, just like him. If so, then you might just make his blood proud.”

Va’il heard this, but couldn’t keep awake any longer. He felt a bit of the weight that his ambiguous parent had left on him be lifted and dispelled. Mai’ou carried him to his room and laid him on the bed. She stroked his hair in the moonlight before leaving. The blue light was reflected by his silver hair, which looked almost white.

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The Lupine Saga 7

Kelin’s suggestion had surprised everyone, but no one was as surprised as King Fidel for the next two hours. It was a musical, of all things. The story was about a woodcutter who one day found a jeweled necklace inside a tree he had cut down. The woodsman couldn’t figure out how a necklace could be inside a tree, so he took it to the city. Everyone knew he was a poor man. Instead of listening to his story, they turned him in to the authorities. He sat in jail for three nights as he waited for the royal guards to arrive. He overheard on the third night that the necklace seemed to belong to one of the princesses in a foreign land. The relationship with that land was unstable, and so any little break in trust might mean the end of the kingdom. A lowly woodcutter stealing royal jewelry was unforgivable, and it was expected that he would be tortured then killed as a sign of peace.

The woodcutter feared for his life, so he managed to break out of the jail, take the necklace, and run away into the darkness of night while his guards slept. He didn’t know where to turn, as no one that he knew would hide him. Remembering the guard’s story, he decided to clear his name by returning the necklace to the princess. He hid in a wagon heading to that land; however, on the way the driver was attacked by wolves and killed. Jo’ei hid until daybreak, at which point he left the wagon with what food he could carry and continued walking down the road. Along the way, he met an old shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd helped Jo’ei past the wolves’ territory, after which they parted ways. After walking for two days with no food and no water, Jo’ei passed out while entering a city. He awoke hours later in a cool house with a tiny girl looking after him. The girl got her father, who said he was a doctor. Jo’ei thanked him, but didn’t mention anything about the necklace or his journey. Before he could leave, the doctor asked him for compensation for the treatment and food that had been provided.

The doctor smiled once he learned that Jo’ei had no money, and so for the next two weeks he forced every sort of labor on Jo’ei in order to compensate him for the use of medicine and food. It was a slow process because Jo’ei still had to eat each day. He gladly did all the woodcutting, the babysitting the little girl needed while the doctor went gambling, and the treatment of patients who couldn’t actually afford the personal service of the doctor. Jo’ei was a cheap substitute who still managed to get a profit for the doctor from these lowly patients.

Two weeks of work went by, and the doctor acknowledged the help that Jo’ei provided. In an uncharacteristic way, he gave Jo’ei enough food and water to last for two weeks, and wished him luck on his journey. Jo’ei left the city and continued on the road to the foreign land. He traveled for a week without seeing another living creature. He heard the far-off growls of meaner creatures at night. He still didn’t know exactly how far he had to travel in order to reach the foreign land. However, he was already in it at that point. After another two days, he saw a city. It was a city of splendor and people. There were people everywhere. The guards at the gate didn’t pay him any heed. He made his way to the center of the city, where there was a large palace. He entered through the front doors, which strangely enough had no guards protecting them. There was a large empty hall with another door at the end of it.

When he opened the next door, what awaited him was a large company of guards, all with lances and swords. They stood at the sides of the carpet. In the distance, the king’s throne and a few people could be seen. Jo’ei was wary; nevertheless, he took a step into the hall. The guards were eyeing him, but no one stopped him. He took another few steps, just to make sure. With that, he walked all the way up the hall until he was almost at the steps leading up to the king. Finally, the last row of guards stopped him with crossed swords. The king told him to speak from there, and Jo’ei explained that he had come to return what he found, the necklace. He held out the necklace for all to see. In the next instant, one of the women at the king’s side ran down the steps and came face to face with Jo’ei. She was crying as she took the necklace from his hands. She turned it over in her hands a few times, and then commanded the guards to stand down. She then put the necklace around Jo’ei’s neck and kissed his cheek. The surprise was astounding, as Jo’ei learned that the necklace was in fact his. His parents were actually cousins of the current king, and had left their life of nobility in order to pursue a simpler life. They had died in a terrible accident many years ago, and so Jo’ei had never known. The story about the lost necklace wasn’t true; it was bait to find these long lost relatives.

Jo’ei obtained status and nobility, but the story didn’t end just yet. He traveled back to the city where the doctor lived, and rewarded him for his help. When the doctor asked why, since he had been so rude, Jo’ei told him that he knew what he did was out of both grief for a dead wife, and care for a motherless girl. He spent the next few months searching fields, roads, and towns until he finally found the old shepherd who had helped him for a few days. The shepherd would not take any reward, and instead Jo’ei gave the shepherd a promise of help whenever needed. A promise, the old shepherd agreed, would be a great reward. Finally, he returned to his original home and added proper titles to his parents’ graves.

The last song ended with every child on stage. Finally, they all bowed, and the curtains fell. A roar of applause ensued from the crowd. Aoi was clapping, and the king was crying, of all things. She turned and laughed a bit at him, which made him chuckle as well.

“Didn’t I say that we had great students?” he asked.

“I certainly didn’t expect that out of such young kids. I could be a little more judgmental of the production and the story if it was something a much older class, or even a theater group produced. But for young kids, it was wonderful,” Aoi said like a pleased critic.

“Aoi, can you help me up? Just so I can lean against the railing by myself. I want to address everyone. Make sure you aren’t seen assisting me.”

“As you wish.” Aoi helped Fidel up. Fidel waited for the curtains to rise. All the kids were still on stage. Mustering his strength, he yelled over the roaring crowd.

“I request silence!” The crowd died out quickly. “Thank you. Students, children, teachers, thank you for your production.”

In unison, the children replied, “You’re welcome, King Fidel!” They all took another bow.

“I have seen many things as a king. Noble parties, world-renowned plays, performers that do things that would astound the mind. I have seen trained animals work as teams in perfect unison, people that could twist their bodies in unbelievable ways, and competitions that make men’s blood boil. Of course, I have also seen many school productions and many plays. But never have I seen a group of young kids produce a musical! The caliber was also quite good! I have to know more about you all. Please come to the front when I ask for you. First, who offered the idea for a musical?”

“That would be me, Kelin, son of Doufer.” Kelin walked to the front of the stage. In the musical, he was the doctor.

“Doufer? I know that name. Ah, you’re a red lupus. You certainly must be rare in many ways. The power of Doufer, the rare color, the suggestion for such a production. Very commendable. Next, who did the choreography?” There was no answer to the king’s question. The students all looked around at each other. A couple of students ran off stage, and then dragged a sleeping avian to the front. One of them spoke up.

“Sir, it’s this one. Her name is Harnes. She has a bit of a sleeping problem though, as you can see.” The entire audience roared with laughter. The commotion woke Harnes up, who looked at the people holding her by the arms. Without noticing her surroundings, she threw them off with a jerk of her arms. She folded her arms and pinched her brow into a vile frown.

“Clarence, Jo’se, are you touching me while I sleep? What’s the meaning of this?” The audience’s laughter became louder. Harnes realized where she was, what she was doing, and who was standing on the balcony laughing at her. Her feathers ruffled as she was struck with fright, and her face paled. Before she could run in terror, King Fidel started speaking.

“Dear girl, the moves you taught such a young bunch were quite good. Everyone moved well, and quite naturally. It must have been a very weary task, you deserve praise and rest,” Fidel said. Harnes blushed and bowed. She then turned around and walked off stage briskly.

“Let’s see, I’ve about forgot who to ask for. Ah, that’s right. I suppose there had to be a director. I don’t suppose that was the teacher, was it?” Fidel asked. Sensei heard this, and decided to come to the fore anyways.

“I am the teacher, but I am proud to say that I played absolutely no part in the production, direction, creation, or otherwise in this. I simply supervised. The director is a brilliant boy, although quite reserved.” With that, Sensei walked off stage, and soon came back holding the hand of Pete. He was obviously very nervous.

“Er, um… Oh, right. I’m the director, Pete. I mean, sir. Yes, hello sir. Thank you sir.”

“Wonderful job. The interactions and scenes both flowed well. Keep up the good work for your teacher,” Fidel said.

“Yes sir,” Pete said with more confidence.

“All of you who had acting parts, I’d like to thank as well, you all did well. Especially your lead, he was the perfect person for the role. Everyone please give another round of applause for the children.” The crowd again clapped and cheered, before being silenced yet again by King Fidel.

“Finally, I want to meet the student that actually wrote the story and script. You’ve all surprised me with your individual achievements; I don’t suppose just a single person wrote these themselves as well?” The students fell silent. Moving to the front was Kelin again.

“Sir, it was all written by one boy,” Kelin said.

“Then where is he?” Fidel asked.

“He’s here, but he wasn’t expecting to be called to the stage, especially not like this. I know he would be happy to answer you, however not everyone may appreciate it,” Kelin explained without a flinch.

“Preposterous. That isn’t an explanation. Nobody need fear, I just want to thank. Everyone will be happy to see the creator, be he nervous, unconscious, or otherwise,” Fidel said. He was surprised at this resistance, but didn’t take offense.

“As you wish, even otherwise. Then please, welcome the boy who created the story and wrote the script. We were only notified of this a week ago, and the production we made was almost a finished product. The choreography and direction took the full week to get down perfectly, but nothing would have started without the story. He offered to complete it, alone, in a single night, which he did. We owe him our thanks.” Kelin walked offstage for a few moments, and came back with another young boy beside him. Va’il took a few steps to reach front and center stage, then greeted the king.

“Sire, my name is Va’il.” The crowd started murmuring. Va’il’s ears twitched as he heard the word “half” thrown around the room. It appeared that even King Fidel was taken aback. His hold on the railing faltered, and his balance was suddenly thrown off. Aoi crept up from behind and grabbed hold of Fidel to keep him upright.

“Are you okay?” she whispered.

“Yes. This is just a horrible time for my strength to give out. I don’t think anyone can see you from this angle. Please keep me up; it would be a disgrace to this boy if it seemed like I was surprised at him being a half,” Fidel whispered. Aoi braced herself at the back of Fidel, and made an effort to disappear behind him. It was too late though. From that angle, there was no one who would normally be able to see what just happened. Nor was anyone looking. No angle, but from the one Va’il was looking from. Moreover, no one was looking at the king but Va’il, whose sharp eyes caught the entire thing. However, Va’il didn’t think that Fidel lost his strength because of the surprise that Va’il was a half. Even if it were, the thought wouldn’t have been Va’il’s first.

“Are you–” Va’il started, but King Fidel had already begun to speak.

“Your creation will make your parents proud. Both of them, certainly.” Fidel had hinted at his personal recognition of halfs in the statement, which quieted the murmurs in the crowd.

“Sire, I have no father. None that I would want to make proud,” Va’il replied without thinking, and with an air that no one could mistake for anything but hatred.

“I see. You certainly make quite a statement of both ideal and character. Can you tell what your inspiration for your story was?” Fidel asked.

“I had some help to see what the words translated mean, but I wanted to make something where the title was a play on my mum’s name, in old Fervish. Oh, and mine too. Silver found at daybreak is a good title, I think. But I still couldn’t think of a way of putting Mai’ou’s full name in the title,” Va’il said casually.

“Very astute young boy! Very well done. Thank you for your presentation everyone. Have a safe journey home.” The king talked and smiled quickly, and then left before anyone else in a hurried fashion. Aoi followed him closely, but he seemed to have regained his strength. For the rest of the night, he spoke to no one.

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The Lupine Saga 6

“There has been a change in plans, due to the return of the king,” Sensei announced to the class, “and so we are going to be doing a presentation for the king at term’s end instead of deciding the next term’s arrangements. Not to worry, as it’s really just a formality anyways. The teachers always make the actual decisions in the end.” The students breathed a sigh of relief, as they thought their burden was lifted.

“What kind of presentation?” Harnes asked, now being completely awake.

“That’s for you to decide. Any suggestions?” Sensei asked.

“Let’s bake cakes and see who makes the cake the king likes best,” Rowlf said. The bearan had a sweet tooth that rivaled a swine’s. Many in the class spoke in approval, but Sensei wouldn’t accept it.

“Out of the question,” Sensei said. “Offering food to royalty is not acceptable, for two reasons. One is that a king’s food must always be tested for poison, and the other is simply a personal matter. What if the king doesn’t like sweets? Actually, think about it again. Would he be able to eat a cake made by each person here? No, something different. Entertaining please, and nothing that would physically involve the king.” Sensei looked around the room that had fallen silent. Pete raised his hand. “Yes?”

“Martial arts competition?” Pete asked.

“No,” Sensei said before anyone could voice approval or disapproval.

“A play!” Va’il said without waiting to be called on. A few children started murmuring, but no outright approval or disapproval was expressed.

“Oh, that’s closer to what I had in mind. Any comments?” Sensei asked.

“I have an idea,” Kelin said while reading a book.

“Really, then let’s hear it,” Sensei said. Kelin remained silent for a minute. The room quieted down and everyone started turning to look at him. Kelin turned the final page of the book he was reading, read the ending lines, then closed the book and put it down. Looking up, he gave a suggestion that no one expected, but readily accepted.

#

The king’s carriage moved slowly while being accompanied only by his personal guards and attendants. In the carriage were Aoi and King Fidel. He looked healthy and happy. He and Aoi were both dressed in exquisite clothes.

“Miss Aoi, I think you will enjoy this. The students at Makeen academy are intelligent and brave. They are sure to provide some entertainment,” he said.

“Yes sir. Nevertheless, what are they supposed to be doing? I did see the invitation; it said nothing about the type of performance,” she said.

“Ah, true. They are probably putting on a play of some sort. I don’t imagine they could be doing much else. If it was up to me, I’d pick a competition, but these are only kids of about nine. Their imagination and abilities only go so far at that age. Though, still, I hear we have quite a few kids who seem much older than they are,” he said, a touch of admiration in his voice.

“You really are proud of them, aren’t you? That’s quite admirable, that you take so much interest in them.” Aoi smiled as she conversed.

“I don’t like saying it, but after my death, our youth will have to pick up my slack. We rely on them to keep us going in tough times. It’s only natural that I should love them, to take pride in them,” he said.

“Yet you have no wife yourself?” she asked.

Fidel stopped smiling at the comment. He thought about how to answer for a while, but Aoi spoke up again.

“I’m sorry, I know about the rumors now and I couldn’t help myself. I shouldn’t have said anything,” she said.

“No, it’s alright. How about it Miss Aoi, would you like to have a child with me?” Fidel asked while staring at Aoi. She was taken aback and couldn’t think. He reached up and took some of her blue hair in his fingers.

“I… not. I could. I…” Aoi stumbled over the words, but stopped when she looked at Fidel. He wasn’t looking at her anymore. He was rubbing his fingers in her hair and staring down at his own hand. He seemed to be lost for a moment, but he then regained his composure. He acquired a large smile of the mischievous kind. She grabbed Fidel’s hand and detached it from her hair.

“Sir, I would appreciate it if you didn’t play around with me. It could be bad for your health. As your doctor I must–” she started, but Fidel cut her off.

“Ha, quite right,” he said while slapping his leg. “You’re a quick one. Quite smart. Maybe now you can think a little more deeply about all those rumors you have heard of me. I like how honest you are.” She blushed again at the words, but he continued unabated. “My situation is my own to handle. I have my own way of dealing with those I’ve loved and lost.”

“Lost?” she asked.

“It’s an expression. I used to be a bit of a playboy, but things have changed for me. Now I’ve ended up alone and about to die. Oh, but don’t suffer grief for me. I’m not dead yet. We’re about there; let’s see what the children have in store for me tonight.”

#

In the large auditorium, the king was seated in a balcony. Below were rows of parents and nobles. A school function that the king himself was attending was one of the few reasons that would get a noble and a commoner in the same room. Makeen, almost unique in the world, taught both noble and common children of all species, as the main school and social example of the city and nation of Rising.

Once everyone was seated, the lights were moved until only a stage for the performance remained lit. A backdrop came from the ceiling; it was a picture of many trees. Silently, one student came out. It was Rowlf. He was dressed in oddly colored clothes and held a pretend axe. Once he got to the middle of the stage, he stopped.

“My name is Jo’ei, and I’m a woodcutter. Nice to meet you.” He smiled, and the audience clapped lightly in recognition. A child dressed in all black holding a pretend tree stump ran out on stage, placed the stump, and ran off. Rowlf swung the axe at it a few times.

“Every day I’m in the woods with my trusty axe. It’s my lone friend as I make my living this way. Never did I imagine it would bring me so many troubles and blessings.” The curtain fell. It rose again on a new scene; this time the backdrop was that of a city, and all the students were on stage dressed as common folk, merchants, and nobles. They were all still. Rowlf wasn’t on the stage with the rest.

It was at this point that the performance really took off. Rowlf walked up on stage from a sideline, and a few of the students turned and exclaimed that Jo’ei had arrived. One remarked, “Oh, it’s just the lowly woodcutter.” Suddenly everyone stopped but Rowlf, who made his way to the middle of the stage. Once there, everyone lined up into three groups.

“I’m just a lowly woodsman.” Rowlf was singing.

“He’s just a lowly woodsman,” the other students sang.

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The Characters so far in TLP

Now that what was known as Chapter 1 from my original publication of “The Lupine Prince” has been posted over the past five weeks, I’m doing a brief overview of the characters introduced so far with basic notes on them. Tomorrow resumes with chapter two, and with it, more characters and more happenings. If you haven’t read it yet, it starts here: Together with Silver, The Lupine Prince.

I’m writing this at a time when I know far more about the characters than is revealed here, but please use this as a basic guide for your imagination. These are animated characters. Some, like bearans, rhinos, and swine, look like the kind of animal characters in the older Disney films for The Jungle Book and Robin Hood [1973] (In other words, movies I saw many times as a young kid born in the 80s have a significant influence.) Others like the felis, avians, and lupus are like Japanese anime; humans with ears/tails/teeth differences, and other small differences. I feel I have to make this correction, as someone long ago thought lupus were werewolves. They are not, and the story as a whole is not related to the particular genre and settings those are in. More details about the characters will be revealed in time, but since there’s quite a few already introduced, it’s better to keep them simple. At least until someone decides to draw them in a way I like. That said, some of the characters I do mentally think of in certain ways, so I’ll include that where possible. And some of their personal looks and descriptions are actually plot-relevant, so having a basic outline for some of them from the beginning assists later.

Va’il – Main Protagonist, Half, Lupus (Mother Mai’ou) and Human (Father unrevealed). Silver Eyes and Hair/Fur. Male. Seven years old, about one year younger than his friends and classmates.
Mai’ou – Va’il’s mother. Lupus. Brown hair. Female. A young mother.
Kelin – Va’il’s lupus friend. Red hair. Male.
Pete – Va’il’s swine friend. Pink and Rotund. Male.
Zeick – Va’il’s previous friend who has pulled away and joined Riley’s group.

Jane Lucrene Melonscone – Important to the story. High-noble (a special noble of the highest class in this nation, specific details about it are not to be presented at this time). Human, blonde. A mother. Female. (My mental image of her has always been one specific person, aside from the eye color. This is not exactly how she looks, just the idea. From the Japanese Novel and Anime, Toradora, Yasuko Takasu. Google search for her image: Yasuko. For someone so strict, she has a look that is completely unlike her persona.)
Jane’s Unrevealed Daughter.
Shiroi – Servant in the Melonscone household. Avian, white feathers on her head and arms. Female. (Avians can be thought of as very light [in weight] people with feathers instead of hair, and talons in place of fingernails. Feathers for most of them cover at least their heads and arms, but I haven’t specified further. They do not a beaked appearance, just sharp/angular features in some avian races. Generally thin, and have a huge variety in appearance compared to other species. Shiroi specifically looks similar to actress Freya Allan [if she were animated] in feature/facial structure with the avian and age/etc. changes.)

Sensei – Teacher of Va’il’s class at the school. Sensei is his name, it doesn’t mean teacher in this case, even though he is. Typical middle aged white teacher with brown hair, but balding. Male.
Harnes – An avian student in the same class. Black feathers on white skin. Female. Anime character that she somewhat resembles is (Google image search link): Kiyoko Shimizu from the anime Haikyu!! – Harnes had an appearance like this in theory ever since her initial creation, but it wasn’t until seeing this character design that I could pinpoint something similar. In Haikyu!! the sports team is themed around Crows (So a natural tie-in as well. Harnes has black feathers and we’ll reveal her actual race at some point.), and the manager Kiyoko has that coolish demeanor, glasses, and sharp face that goes with the stereotypical “class representative” look that’s common in anime. It’s because of how sharp the animation/design of her is that she can be so reminiscent of the avian motif. So, Harnes is similar, but not exactly, in appearance to a Kiyoko with black feathers instead of hair, no glasses, and younger.

Riley – Human bully at school, noble. Brown hair and Tan skin. Male.
Clarence – Swine member of Riley’s group. Male.
Lauren – Bovine member of Riley’s group. Unspecified appearance, other than has horns. Female.
Jack – Hare member of Riley’s group. Grey fur. Male. (Hares are likely similar in appearance to the rabbits in Disney’s 1973 Robin Hood. Perhaps more Japanese-anime in style, but it’s fine to think of them in that cartoon style.)
Unnamed Avian – Member of Riley’s group. Brown feathers. Male.

Yan – Lionel upperclassman at Makeen who wants to be the priest of Rising, and the school idol. Dark skin and a standard male lion’s mane around his neck. Male.

Duke Tourney – A noble who is Jane Melonscone’s friend. Kind-of. Only slightly older than Jane, a kind of strange presence, but not actually offensive. Male. [Is this noble a Duke or is that his first name? Perhaps both? The world may never know the answer to this mystery.]

King Fidel – King of Rising. Human. White hair, blue eyes. The Kings of Rising all have white, not grey, hair. Think of hair dyed White, it doesn’t look grey. Regardless, it throws off the interpretation of his age. Would look to be in his thirties if his hair was black. He’s younger than Jane. Male.
Aoi – A young woman from the Water Kingdom, Ens. Human (Ens race). Blue hair. Female.
Rillin – Advisor (of three) to Fidel. Human. Old with grey hair. Male.
Diren – Advisor (of three) to Fidel. Hare. Grey fur, also older. Male.

Some of these characters are minor, some are major, and others will be adjusted.

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