The silence following this statement was almost painful in its intensity. Faced with this revelation, it took several moments for it to truly sink in: The Triumvirate wanted Rifel to take his student's life. When Duncan found the will to speak, Valessa could have sworn that, confronted with such a situation, she would have chosen the exact same words:
"Wh-what are you talking about, sir?"
"It's just as it sounds. They want me to kill you. A replacement has already been found, and--"
"And what!?" Duncan retorted. "You're going to listen to them just like that? Rifel, surely you know me better than to just... dispose of me like some pest!"
"I thought I did, Duncan. I thought I did." Rifel said quietly as he closed his eyes. "Hold a kin upon the cliff's edge, and only then will you know their true intentions. I tested you Duncan, and in your eagerness to make me proud you have only proven your disloyalty to The Triumvirate."
Duncan took a few steps back, as if to make a distance between him and Rifel, clearly shaken up. "You cannot possibly accuse me of disloyalty! I did everything you asked!"
"And yet it was not nearly enough, nor as important as this."
Valessa leaned in closer, sensing sorrow in Duncan's words. The bear went on to clench his fists together, visibly shaking from fear and anger. Somewhat irrational, Valessa thought. Rifel hadn't even shown the slightest desire to hurt him, this was purely a verbal joust at present.
"I killed them..." he said to Rifel. "Was that all for nothing?"
"That is irrelevant. Your credibility was thrown away the moment you said ignorance is an abomination. Like an arrow to my heart, without a reasonable doubt, it showed me that you are not fit to replace me. I lied, every word was a lie. It was only a few days ago that The Triumvirate told me this needed to be done – that I needed to kill you. They had told me that you were starting to sway from the true path – that you were starting to stray from their teachings. I chose not to believe it at first... After all, I had known you for several weeks, and you went on to display such promise. But it was all thrown away. Duncan, you think like a human, and for that you must be punished."
"Should I not be judged by that promise I showed!?" Duncan begged.
"You should not. Like a human, you cannot stand ignorance. You desire, nay, you need to know everything. It is that necessity that will lead to your downfall."
"That is nonsense!" Duncan blared. "Fine – I lied. I was just pretending to impress you so that you might come to like me more than you did! Really!"
"But you would never lie solely for my benefit, remember?" Rifel smiled, as he raised the pitch of his voice to impersonate Duncan. "Goodness no, Rifel. That's honestly how I feel."
"N-no! I refuse to believe this... I deserve a chance!"
"It must be so. This... desire of yours – to see all – to know all. It may seem small, but the humans thought the same. A simple seed, that blossomed into the destruction of their world – of their race. We have no place for that here! And so, your end must come by my hand, lest you cause such irreparable damage."
"Irreparable damage!?" Duncan cried out. "I killed my children, to prove that family would not get in the way. I killed my wife, to prove that love would not obscure my vision! I committed atrocities in the name of the trinity, do not speak to me of 'irreparable damage! Don't you dare!"
In that moment, and in an instant, Duncan was upon Rifel. The large weight of his body pinned the vulpine to the edge of the outlook as they crashed to the soil with an audible crack. Valessa peeked as much as she could without compromising her position – but she noticed just how calm Rifel seemed in comparison to his attacker. All she could think about was just how surreal it seemed; as if Rifel was coaxing Duncan into attacking, with no plans of self-defense.