The first real update for Lillia and Treize. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: And so the Two Left on a Trip
The fourth day of the seventh month, the year 3305 of the World Calendar.
The Roxcheanuk Confederation was known for its cool summers, owed mostly to the brisk, dry seasonal winds that blew in from the north.
The official name of its capital, on the northeastern part of the continent, was the Special Capital District. It was an independent part of the Confederation not affiliated with any of its members. Five-story apartments took up a good chunk of the residential district surrounding the civic center.
And in one room in one particular building,
Lillia Schultz raised her voice.
It was early summer, at around noon.
Lillia Schultz was fifteen years old.
She had long straight brown hair and big light brown eyes.
When she stood still for a photograph, she looked like a pretty and demure girl. But at the moment, she was wearing a look of indignant fury.
Lillia was a student at a famous secondary school in the Capital District. She was wearing her summer uniform—a white blouse embroidered with the school crest, a red tie, and a green skirt.
Her official name was Lillianne Aikashia Corazòn Whittington Schultz. Lillianne was her full given name; Aikashia was the name from her mother’s parents; Corazòn was the name from her father’s parents; Whittington was her mother’s maiden name; and Schultz was her family name.
She was shouting loudly in the dining room of the apartment, slamming her hands onto the table as she stood.
“Calm down and listen to me, Lillia.”
Across the table sat her unflappable mother.
Lillia’s mother was Allison Whittington Schultz. She was in her mid-thirties, but she looked deceptively youthful and attractive. She had sky-blue eyes and long blond hair she tied above her neck. She was also in a summer uniform, albeit a red military one. She wore a long skirt and a short-sleeved summer shirt affixed with her badge of rank, along with a dark blue tie. On the nametag over her right breast was the name ‘Schultz’.
Reduced to angry silence, Lillia did as she was told and plopped down on her chair, then placed her fists on the table.
“I’m sorry to say this, Lillia. But by the time the Air Force gets to the testing stage, they have to prioritize the military’s and the developers’ schedules over the pilots’. Even if, for example, a pilot’s daughter were starting summer break, they wouldn’t delay production.” Allison explained.
Having just returned from the end-of-classes ceremony, Lillia had been surprised and overjoyed to find her mother home, and suggested that they head to their favorite restaurant nearby for lunch, where they could make plans for the summer. Until then, Lillia had been enthusiastic. But Allison had asked her to take a seat. Lillia ended up sitting at the table, still in her uniform. And what her mother said was that, in two days’ time, she would be out of the house for a while for an aeroplane testing assignment.
“Why does it have to be now…?” Lillia said sullenly.
“Why, I wonder?” Allison agreed, glancing out the half-open window. A middle-aged woman was hanging up her laundry in the window of the apartment across the street. Lillia’s hair shook in the wind.
The mother-daughter conversation had come to a stop. Time passed.
“Er, I brewed some tea. Drink up before it gets cold.” Said a male voice.
Allison turned and thanked him.
“What do you want?!” Lillia glared in a perfect show of venting.
“Here. Have some tea.”
The boy was a year older than Lillia, and had slightly long black hair and brown eyes. He was about a head taller than Lillia, and had soft but attractive features. He was handsome enough that if he were dressed up, girls might come to him instead of the other way around. But he looked a little scared. He was wearing a light yellow apron over his cotton pants and T-shirt.
“Oh, you’re still here? I thought you’d gone back to Iks, Treize.”
“Nope. You’re the one who ordered me to make you tea as soon as you got home, Lillia.” Treize retorted firmly, approaching the table with a teapot in his right hand and a platter with three mugs in his right. Expertly placing the mugs on the table, he poured the steaming-hot tea.
“Thank you for everything, Treize.” Said Allison. Lillia also thanked him, albeit more brusquely.
Treize placed his own mug to Lillia’s left and took a seat.
After a sip of tea, Lillia spoke.
“Anyway, Mom. I’m not going to get mad at the Air Force—I mean, we’re living off your salary. But to be honest, I wanted to play around for the first half of summer break and do my homework during the second half.”
“You always do narrowly finish your homework.”
“Well, yeah. It’s practically tradition at this point, but otherwise I don’t feel like doing schoolwork at all. I’ll just spend the first half relaxing—”
In the middle of the everyday conversation between mother and daughter, Lillia suddenly remembered something.
“Wait! You said you’re going to be doing test flights for twenty days straight!”
“Yeah. Maybe even longer, depending on the weather.”
“Then… does that mean you’re gonna stay there the whole time, Mom?”
“It’s not an ordinary base, honey. I can’t tell you the details, but it’s a little far from the Capital District. I can’t commute there every day.”
Lillia glared at the boy in the apron drinking tea next to her. Then, she pointed at him.
“Then I have to stay with Treize the whole time? Here, just the two of us?”
“I guess so.” Allison replied nonchalantly. Lillia raised her voice again.
“No way! With this sorry guy?!”
“Now, now, be nice, Lillia. And what’s wrong with Treize? He’s a good cook and an excellent housekeeper. You have no idea how much I appreciate all his help.”
Lillia nodded, sullenly agreeing. But she quickly shot back.
“But still! You want a teenaged guy and a teenaged girl to live in a house together, just the two of them? As a mother, aren’t you worried? What if we have an accident or something?”
Treize quietly sipped his tea.
“Don’t worry, Treize is a gentleman.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I’m good friends with Treize’s father, who is a gentleman.”
Treize quietly sipped his tea.
Lillia shot him a glance, then replied dubiously.
Allison gave a loving smile.
“It’ll be fine as long as you don’t force yourself on Treize.”
“Why would I?!”
“For example, when he’s asleep and defenseless.”
“Are you out of your mind, Mom?! I would not!”
Treize quietly sipped his tea.
Treize’s homeland was the Kingdom of Iks, now called ‘Ikstova’. It had been five days since he arrived at the Capital district after leaving his home. Allison accepted him as a guest, giving him the spare room that was usually reserved for winter clothes, skis, and unguarded military rifles. Meanwhile, Treize had taken Lillia’s orders(“If you’re freeloading, you’d better do at least this much”) to heart and was acting as her driver. His job was to drop off and pick up Lillia near her school every day on his motorcycle. He also made sure to sightsee around the city between trips.
From the second day of his stay in the Capital District, Treize volunteered to cook for the family.
“You’re not going to burn down our kitchen, right?” Lillia had questioned him.
In response, Treize put together a marvelous breakfast from the ingredients in the fridge as Lillia watched.
“…Not bad.” Lillia was forced to admit. Treize bowed courteously.
“I am honored, milady.”
Between bites of her cheese-and-veggie omelet, Lillia had asked Treize where he had learned to cook.
“From my parents.”
Allison, who had finished changing, had joined the breakfast table and chimed in.
“You haven’t met them yet, Lillia, but Treize’s parents are really good at everything.”
“Huh. Then make me more tea, Treize.”
“As you wish.”
Though Lillia did not know, Treize was actually a prince of Ikstova.
However, he was not an officially recognized prince. Because of an age-old custom in the royal family which allowed the monarch to have only one child, only Treize’s twin sister Meriel was officially declared a princess. Very few people knew of the prince’s existence.
Treize’s mother was Queen Francesca of Ikstova. His father was the former Sou Be-Il Air Force pilot Carr Benedict, the hero who discovered a historic mural that ended the war between East and West. If Treize had been an only child, he would by now be surrounded by servants and advisors in the restored kingdom.
But right now, he was in the Schultz family home in the Capital District, being told off by Lillia.
“This is ridiculous. Go back to Ikstova, Treize!”
Allison answered for the lost Treize.
“Is that any way to speak to a guest, young lady? I’m sure Treize has things planned out, too. And he came all this way from Ikstova.”
“But still! …Oh, wait! I could just go to the base with you, Mom. Problem solved. Watch the house while we’re gone, Treize.”
“I’m sorry, Lillia. But the base is off-limits to civilians. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Pouting, Lillia guzzled the rest of her tea and put down her mug on her left side. Without a word, Treize filled it about 70% of the way with practiced hands.
“Then how about I go traveling somewhere on my own?” Lillia suggested, turning her mug in her hands. The tea was about to spill. “Mom goes to work, and I go on a trip. And since we have someone to watch the house, it all works out!”
“That won’t do either, Lillia. You’re still fifteen. What if you get caught? They’re really cracking down on minors traveling alone these days.”
“Tch. Damn the Ministry of Education.”
“On that note, I have a suggestion.” Allison said, her eyes twinkling.
“What is it?”
Both Lillia and Treize(who had been silently listening all this time) looked up at the uniformed Allison.
“Lillia, I think it would be wonderful for you to go on a trip. So you should go with Treize.”
“What?!” Lillia screeched, making a point of displaying her anger. Allison continued nonchalantly.
“You’re not breaking any rules as long as you’re with a sixteen-year-old. That solves everything. And don’t worry, I can at least cover your costs.”
“B-but! Well, I’m thankful for the money, but! You want me to go on a trip with him, alone?”
“Oh? How is that any different from staying home alone with Treize?”
“Lillia, there was someplace you always wanted to go, right? In Tolcasia. The city of La-something."
“Ah! Lartika in Tolcasia? …Really?”
“It’s the perfect opportunity. I’ll let you go for a summer vacation.”
“But. You have to go with Treize.”
Lillia cradled her head in her hands, a truly fierce debate raging in her mind.
“So? What’s your answer?” Allison asked, amused.
Treize watched the conversation and blankly thought about the fact that mother and daughter had been making his summer plans for him without even asking for his opinion.
“Like mother, like daughter.” He said very, very quietly under his breath.
There was a small blackboard hanging on the wall of the Schultz family’s kitchen. Normally, it displayed shopping lists and the expiration dates for the food in the fridge. But now, it was filled to the edges with words under the title ‘Summer Vacation Plans’.
[Allison: Sixth day of the seventh month - Will be doing secret test flights of a secret top-of-the-line fighter plane in a secret secret base. Will be going to the secret secret base. Will call Lillia when the secret return date is decided.
Lillia: Early morning, sixth day of the seventh month - Will be going on a sightseeing trip to Lartika in Tolcasia with Treize, who is simply a chaperone. Including two days for travel, the trip will last seven days. After coming home, remember to call the gas company to reconnect the gas lines. For living expenses before Mom comes home, withdraw money from the bank. Make sure that the automatic payment for the rent has been made. Make sure to throw out the oversized garbage.
Treize: I promise to be a good chaperone. I don’t know what I’ll do after the trip, but I’ll figure it out then. Although I don’t even know where exactly we’re going, I’ll do everything Lillia tells me to, even if it’s carrying her luggage. ←You don’t need to write that. -Lillia ←Is that any way to speak to a guest, Lillia? -Allison ←You’re being too nice, Mom. Even if he’s a guest, you shouldn’t spoil him! -Lillia ←Thank you so much, Allison. -Treize ←Hey, stay off the board! -Lillia ←But… -Treize ←No ‘but’s! We’re going to the department store tomorrow to buy stuff for the trip, so come along and help me carry stuff. You’re so—there’s no more room here, so I’ll just tell you in person!
* * *
Early morning. The sixth day of the seventh month.
In the narrow road between apartment buildings, Allison and Lillia stood at the doors.
The road was packed on either side with cars that threatened to encroach even on the sidewalk. Even though it was already a one-way road, there was only enough room left for one car to squeeze through at a time.
Treize’s motorcycle was parked between the cars. The motorcycle’s engine cylinders were jutting out on either side, and on its right was attached a sidecar fixed with a luggage holder. In the sidecar was camping gear Treize had brought from all the way in Ikstova, and Lillia’s leather suitcase.
Between the apartment buildings they could see the sky; it was covered in grey clouds, and rain seemed to be on the way.
“You haven’t forgotten your money?” Allison asked. Her hair was a tangled mess, and she was wearing a red cardigan over her light green pajamas. She was also wearing a pair of sandals over her bare feet.
“I got it. I put just a bit in my wallet and put the rest in the hidden belt.” Lillia replied. She was wearing a light pink blouse, a beige skort, and a light jacket—all clothes that were easy to move around in.
“You have your ID?”
“Packed. I didn’t put it in my wallet, just to be safe.”
“And you have your emergency contact info?”
“Packed. I wrote it down.”
“Packed. Stuff for headaches, colds, and stomachaches.”
“And what about Treize? He came out with us, right?”
Lillia glanced at the motorcycle. Treize was squatting on the ground, undoing the lock.
“Packed. He’s right there.”
“Did you call, Milady?” Treize asked as he finished, getting to his feet. He was dressed just like the day he came to the Capital District—dark olive cargo pants, slightly long boots, a white T-shirt, and an old leather jacket.
“No.” Lillia replied.
“I see. Preparations are complete.” Treize said, joining Allison and Lillia.
“Take good care of Lillia.” Allison said, meeting Treize’s gaze. Treize looked directly into her blue eyes and nodded firmly.
Allison then turned to her daughter.
“Take care, Lillia. And have fun.”
“Thanks, Mom. Have fun with your new fighter plane. And also—”
“Whatever base you’re staying at, please try to get up on your own. Otherwise you’ll give a really hard time to the poor soul who has to wake you up.”
“Ohh… All right, I’ll try. Have a good trip, Lillia.”
Allison smiled, and planted a kiss on Lillia’s cheek. Lillia kissed her mother back.
As Treize watched he suddenly found himself meeting Allison’s gaze.
“Would you like one too, Treize?” Allison asked, reaching toward him. Lillia slapped down her hand.
“Don’t bother, Mom.”
“Hey, that’s not nice.” Treize grumbled.
“Ask your own mom for a kiss.” Lillia snapped back. Then, she added in a softer tone, “As I wish, right?”
Treize nodded, slightly.
“Hmm… Lillia, you should be the one giving Treize a kiss after all.”
Lillia reacted instantly.
“It’s going to be a long trip, you know. Plenty of time for at least one.”
“There’s no need to be stingy.”
“I said, denied.”
“You keep saying so, but I bet you’re thinking to yourself that once might be all right? A mother knows what her children are thinking.”
“Just do it when no one’s looking.”
“That’s not the problem here.”
“Just a quick one on the forehead.”
“It’s not about where.”
“It’s not like it’ll hurt.”
“That’s not the problem, either.”
“Or maybe you’re too shy when you’re sober?”
“Mom, I’m a minor.”
Standing idly by the mother and daughter, Treize waited for their conversation to end.
It was a little before morning rush hour. The Capital District’s streets stretched on under the cloudy sky.
The motorcycle, laden with luggage, was traveling down a six-lane street. Because helmets were not required by law, Treize was just wearing goggles over his eyes. Lillia sat in the sidecar with the windshield raised.
Treize stopped the motorcycle at the traffic light and glanced over at Lillia. She was staring straight ahead.
“Y’know, don’t people usually look… happier when they’re going on a trip?”
“Hm. I guess that depends on who you’re going with.” Lillia replied, her gaze unwavering.
“But you can’t go traveling without me.”
“Which is why I’m so angry. I guess life really is unfair.”
“You can say that again.”
The light turned green.
Capital West Station.
It was one of three train stations in the Capital District, and as apparent from its name, it was the station in the western part of the city. And because the continent extended far to the west, this station was the Capital District’s largest.
As soon as they made a turn at the thoroughfare, a vast parking lot and a traffic circle appeared before them. Beyond stood a massive glass dome that looked like a sports stadium. The dome encased over ten platforms, and nearly twenty tracks branched from the building and to the west.
Lillia and Treize would board a sleeper train bound west. They paid extra to take Treize’s motorcycle on the freight cars as well. Lillia first got off the motorcycle at the station entrance.
“You take care of the luggage.”
“All right. You can take care of our tickets. You have the reservation number written down, right?”
“As if I’d be stupid enough to forget.”
Treize took the motorcycle to the side entrance, entering the station through the freight gate. He did as the station employees instructed and rode through the station, packed with cargo from the morning trains. Eventually, he reached a large check-in area on one side of the end of the platform.
Soon, Lillia came walking down the platforms with the tickets and a paper bag in hand. She showed the tickets to an employee and pointed at Treize and the motorcycle. The employee gestured Treize over. He rode the motorcycle cautiously across the tracks and to platform 4. As they showed their tickets, the train slowly entered the station, pushed by a steam locomotive.
Lillia and Treize left the motorcycle and their bigger luggage in the freight car and boarded the passenger car. Lillia was carrying just her suitcase and a paper bag. Treize had a small backpack and a belt pack.
They were in a 4-passenger cabin in second class. The door and a glass wall covered by shades separated the seats from the corridor. The seats faced one another, and each seat could be converted into a bunk bed. Cabins in first class were for two passengers each and were larger, but they were also more than double the price.
Lillia stepped inside as Treize held open the door. The passengers they were to share the cabin with were not there yet. Treize placed their things on the shelf above the window and secured them with the elastic strap there. They both took off their jackets, hung them by the window, and sat face-to-face. Lillia faced the front of the train, and Treize(with his belt pack turned to the front) faced the back.
Lillia unfolded the table from under the window and took out the contents of the paper bag. Two tetrahedral packs of milk and four loaves of bread with jam.
Once the conductor finished checking the passengers’ tickets, the train left the station in the morning as scheduled. The locomotive gave a long whistle next to the platform, which was filling with morning commuters. The other passengers who were to share Lillia and Treize’s cabin did not show up, even when they left the station.
The train sped up. When it left the station, Lillia saw the Capital District’s familiar grey apartment buildings packed in under the cloudy sky.
“It’s boring just sitting around like this.” She grumbled.
“True. But it’s not like we can drive the train ourselves. And it would take two days to get to Lartika by motorcycle.” Treize replied.
“You just read the guidebook, Treize. We should at least know the basics about where we’re going.” Lillia said, and started on her breakfast.
Treize quickly finished eating first, and took out from his backpack the guidebook he had bought the other day.
Their destination was the city of Lartika in the country of Tolcasia.
The Roxcheanuk Confederation was a union of sixteen nations and territories on the eastern half of the continent, and Tolcasia was one of them. Its territory began six hundred kilometers southwest of the Capital District.
By Tolcasia was a gigantic lake called the Kurz Sea.
1200 kilometers long and 500 kilometers wide, it was the biggest lake in all of Roxche. The Kurz Sea was a large watery surface in a land of flat plains and woods. Despite the name, it was a freshwater lake. From the distant past, the lake had been a cornerstone of river traffic in Roxche, and countless canals were connected to the lake.
The country of Tolcasia was located on the southern shore of the Kurz Sea, and it was known for its particularly lengthy lakeshore. The country itself was not very large, being a long strip of land attached to the southern lakeshore.
Until about two thousand years ago, there was no nation there—only large fishing towns scattered by the water. The first Kingdom of Tolcasia was only created 1500 years ago. The country went on to be invaded many times over, entering times of decline and revival in turn.
About a thousand years ago, there was a king who proposed that they build a settlement on the lake. He supposed that an island in the lake would not be easy to invade, and put his absurd idea into motion. He first selected a shallow part of the Kurz Sea, then put down stakes on the lakebed and transported large boulders by ship to create a foundation. And with tens of thousands of rocks and bricks, he created land.
Then, he laid the bricks on top and created a fortress, along with streets. Over time, the island expanded, and the town was completed centuries later.
That was the origin of Lartika. The land was made of stone, and the buildings of reddish-brown bricks. The canals and horizons were cut to geometric perfection. With a thriving fishing and trading industry, the town became a harbor city and capital of Tolcasia. At the limit of its expansion, the city was about twenty-five square kilometers in size and was nearly a perfect square.
When Roxche was first created 200 years ago, the city rose to fame as a wondrous place floating on a lake. That was when it became a renowned tourist destination.
With the development of the railroad, Lartika became an easily-accessible destination for Capital District residents. The city invested even more effort into its tourism industry—hotels were built and restaurants and souvenir shops created, and with the city offering both historic tours and amusement on the lake, Lartika thrived as a tourist destination.
“So it was really famous, huh.” Treize remarked as he finished reading.
The world outside the window had changed from the bustling city to rural fields stretching toward the horizon, though the sky was still cloudy. The train was traveling southwest through the Republic of Farkas, which was just west of the Capital District. According to their schedule, they would reach the large town of Bren near the Tolcasia border early next morning.
To reach Lartika, they had to take a boat from Bren, which was on the shore, and cross the lake. They would leave Treize’s motorcycle in the town.
Treize suddenly found himself glancing at Lillia. She had finished breakfast, and was leaning against the window with her gaze fixed on the scenery. Neither particularly happy nor sad, she was the picture of calm—no different from usual.
Silently, Treize continued to stare in a daze.
“What?” Lillia said, looking at him. Treize was taken aback.
“N-nothing. Wanna read the guidebook?”
“No thanks. I know the gist of things anyway. You can put it away.”
Treize did as he was told and put the book back in his bag. Then, he rolled up the paper bag filled with garbage from breakfast, threw it in the bin in a corner of the car outside the cabin, and returned to his seat. Lillia’s eyes were locked on the scenery outside.
Treize also looked out the window from his seat. Lillia’s reflection overlapped with the grey and green background of the world.
Suddenly, droplets of water splattered against the glass. They were followed by a veritable torrent of rain, striking the window hard in the gust.
Countless drops of water covered the window in an instant, and the scenery turned hazy.
The train continued through the rainstorm.
They stopped at three stations on the way. Treize bought lunch from one of them through the window. It was a paper box containing two servings of sandwiches. Lillia and Treize ate their lunch in the cabin. And just as they finished up, the people they were to share the cabin with finally showed up.
They were a couple in their fifties, wearing classy clothing. They briefly greeted Lillia and Treize and casually took their seats. The husband alternated between reading the newspaper and taking naps. The wife busied herself with embroidery, her hand expertly outmaneuvering the shaking of the train.
Treize leaned against the window frame, looking out the translucent glass. He glanced at Lillia; she was absorbed in a thick book.
He stared at the ceiling for a while. When he looked down, he met Lillia’s eyes.
“You’ve been reading for a while now. Do you like books?”
“Meh. They’re better than boring conversations.”
“I see. …Do you want to drink some tea? I saw some in the dining car.”
“Not now. I’d just end up wanting to go to the bathroom.”
The conversation was over in seconds. Lillia returned to her book.
The middle-aged woman, who had been working away next to Treize, discreetly flashed her finished embroidery to her husband.
[This is going nowhere], it was written among the roses and little birds.
Slowly but firmly, the husband nodded.
No one spoke for about an hour. The only sounds in the cabin were the noise of the wheels, the plopping of water falling against the window, Lillia turning the pages, and the clicking of the woman’s deft needlework.
Eventually, Lillia closed her book, put it on the table, and spoke as Treize looked at her.
“I’m going to the bathroom. Should I pick up something on the way? Tea?”
“Yeah, sure. If it’s not too much trouble.”
“Then that’s two cups of tea.” Lillia replied, squeezing past the couple and leaving the cabin. Her footsteps disappeared toward the bathroom at the end of the car, drowned out by the sound of the train.
“Whew…” Treize sighed loudly. At that moment, the man sitting diagonally across from him suddenly leaned over.
“What are you doing?”
Treize turned, neither surprised nor visibly annoyed. The man spoke to him as though they were acquainted.
“What are you doing, Your Highness? How could you have Miss Lillianne pick up your tea?”
“Well, she’s the one who offered…” Treize retorted feebly. The woman turned.
“Then it would only have been right for you to act the gentleman and reply, ‘I’ll come with you and carry the tea’!”
Treize was not pleased.
“Right… so I’d appreciate it if you left me alone.”
“How could we, sir, after that shocking display? Where is the conversation? A young man and a young woman, alone in a cabin, and all she does is bury her nose in a book! Do you understand what that means, sir? She has no interest in you! I infer that you must have made no progress during your time at the Capital District, either. What would we have done if not for Ms. Schultz?” The woman scolded Treize quietly, showing him no mercy. The man continued where she left off.
“Indeed. You must make conversation! Think of something romantic that a woman might like. Books, the latest films, anything!”
“I just don’t get that book she was reading, and I’ve barely watched any films.”
“Which is precisely why we’ve been telling you all this time that you should get away from your aeroplanes and guns and hunting sometimes.” The woman said, flushing red as she shook her head. The man continued.
“This is your chance, sir. A trip to a beautiful city, just the two of you. There’s no better time or place to develop your relationship.”
“Okay, just leave me alone.”
“Preposterous! You must act, sir, or Miss Lillianne’s heart will only grow distant!”
“Forget growing distant—I don’t think her heart’s been that close in the first place…”
“I can’t take much more of this. Honey, we’ll have to put our plan into action immediately.” The woman said. The man nodded and whispered to Treize,
“Your Highness. Once Miss Lillianne returns, the two of us will act like delinquent elders and provoke a quarrel. We will bother you with all we have. That is when you come in and gallantly cry, ‘Stop this immediately!’. That will solve everything. I’m sure Miss Lillianne will be won over by your dauntlessness. What do you think?”
“I’ll also do my best to seem like a delinquent old woman.”
The couple looked quite excited to put on their little show. But Treize shot them down.
“Stop this immediately.”
“But Your Highness—”
“Just leave me alone!”
The moment Treize raised his voice, the door to the cabin opened.
Lillia was outside. She was not carrying anything. Treize froze.
Lillia’s eyes fell on Treize.
“Treize! What are you doing?!” She said indignantly, striding into the cabin.
She smacked him on the head.
“How could you pick a fight with these people?”
“No ‘but’s!” Lillia cut him off, and took out her wallet from the jacket she left by the window. “I forgot to bring money. I’ll go get the tea, so stay put and be nice.”
“Huh? Oh, right…”
Treize nodded obediently. Glaring at him one last time, Lillia apologized profusely to the couple and went to the door.
“Oh, wait… I’ll come with you. I’ll carry the tea.” Treize quickly said.
“It’s fine. I’m going to get a thermos.” Lillia replied, and left the cabin.
For some time, the only sound in the cabin was that of the train moving down the tracks.
“Ugh…” Treize sighed.
“Don’t lose heart, Your Highness.”
“You must steel yourself, Your Highness.”
“And just whose fault is this to begin with?”
“Miss Lillianne truly is a strong-willed and motivated young lady.”
“Just like Lady Fiona when she was young.”
“Hey, don’t shirk responsibility like that.”
“I do wonder how ‘Lady Francesca’ is doing right now.”
“I’m a little worried.”
The couple quickly changed the subject. Treize could do nothing but sigh.
Then he mumbled,
“It’ll be fine as long as Meriel’s around.”
At the same time, at the royal palace in the city of Kunst, in the Kingdom of Iks situated in the middle of the continent.
“Treize and Lillia must be on the train by now. I wonder how things are going?”
The queen and her husband were talking in Bezelese, the official language of Sou Be-Il.
They were in the queen’s office in the palace—it was not a particularly large room, but the beautiful wood-finish interior lent the office the air of a cozy cabin in the mountains. On one wall were ceramic plates, pictures, and wooden plates cared with intricate art.
On the wall opposite hung framed photographs. One was a color photo capturing the snowy mountains; the snow was so white it was blinding. There was also a group picture taken in front of what seemed to be a village hall. The people in the photo, all middle-aged or older, were smiling. There was another photo of a city with blue roofs, taken from overhead, and a photo of the queen and her husband sitting on either side of a crib where a pair of identical-looking babies lay. In another photo, a woman with blond hair was holding the babies.
In a corner of the room was a kitchenette and a round table. In front of the wall was a heavy desk. Sitting there was Queen Francesca of Ikstova. She was still rather young, not yet forty years of age.
She had fair skin and short black hair. Currently, the queen was wearing a white half-sleeve blouse and a long skirt. Around her neck was a pendant—a small golden coin. In her right hand was a weighty royal seal. On the desk, ahead of her left hand, was a mountain of paperwork.
Next to the desk, by the round window through which the cloudless sky was visible, was her husband Benedict. He was leaning against the frame. His messy brown hair and beard, which covered his mouth and chin, made him look almost like a mountain man. He was wearing a checkered shirt and cotton pants with many pockets, as though he were prepared to go hiking at a moment’s notice. However, just like Francesca, he had a golden pendant around his neck.
“Oh? Is that any way a concerned father should be acting?” Francesca asked, pausing from her work as she looked up. Her Bezelese was fluid, and she had perfect pronunciation.
“To be honest, I don’t care about any other couples as long as the two of us are fine.”
Benedict walked up to the smiling Francesca. Leaning over her, he looked into her face.
“So forget the paperwork for now—” He winked, then switched to Roxchean. “And will you join me for morning tea? Please let ‘Queen Francesca’ rest for a while, Fi.”
Fiona looked around.
“All right. That sounds wonderful. It’s not like anyone’s watching.”
“Then I will brew the tea—”
“—and I’ll get the jam.”
“Excellent. But first, will you kiss me?” Benedict asked, leaning in. Fiona smiled again and closed her eyes.
They occupied themselves with the kiss for some time. Then—
The office door slammed open. But they did not stop kissing.
The girl who barged inside pointed an accusing finger at the couple.
She was a pretty girl in her mid-teens. Her long black hair was tied back in a sloppy ponytail, and she was wearing grey work wear stained with oil. The girl glared at the couple as she reached back and shut the door.
“Oh my. Meriel.”
Finally breaking away, Fiona turned to the girl. The newcomer was Princess Meriel—Treize’s sister. The princess strode up to her parents.
“Your Majesty, get back to work. And her husband! Don’t get in her way.” She warned, slamming her hands on the desk. Some of the documents were pushed back a few centimeters by the force.
“And Her Majesty’s husband? Please shave that beard. Just looking at it makes me feel stuffy!”
The queen and her husband complained in unison.
“I think the beard is fine, once you get used to it. A lot of men grow out their beards in Iks.”
“That’s right. I thought I looked pretty thuggish at first, but you just have to get used to it. I look like a mountaineering tour guide, don’t you think? And I can go incognito easily like this, as long as I wear a pair of sunglasses.”
Fiona replied in Roxchean, and Benedict in Bezelese.
“Argh! You two drive me up the wall!” Meriel cried in Bezelese, shaking her head. “Forget the beard! But just stop interrupting the queen’s work! The prime minister already scolded you about not getting your work done on time!”
“True. You know, I’m always so impressed by how hardworking you are, Meriel.”
“I think you could try to relax a little.”
Meriel clenched her fists.
“This is hopeless… Ikstova’s future rests on my shoulders.”
Her parents replied simultaneously.
“Do your best, honey!”
“We’ll be cheering you on.”
“Please stop acting like this is someone else’s business!” Meriel cried.
Inside a cabin in a rain-soaked train.
“Princess Meriel certainly is a hard worker.”
“Indeed she is. The future of Ikstova is bright.”
Treize mustered up every ounce of sarcasm he was capable of.
“You got that right. Much better than some stupid, indecisive prince.”
“By the way, I’ve been told that you secured lodgings at your destination under your name, because of Miss Lillianne’s age.” The man said, completely ignoring Treize’s remark.
“Told by whom? Oh, you must’ve called Allison. I don’t believe this…” Treize sighed.
“Yes. She was happy to tell us.” The woman said. Her husband continued.
“But we noticed that you were to stay in the smallest rooms at the cheapest hotel in the area.”
“Obviously. Allison’s paying for it, and young people shouldn’t be spending money like water anyway. The cheapest room’s good enough.”
“No, Your Highness! You may be young, but this is a trip for the two of you!” The woman said firmly. “Which is why, with Ms. Schultz’s permission, we called in earlier to reserve better rooms for you.”
“Wait… What?” Treize gaped, unable to believe his ears.
“This here is the hotel you will have ‘reserved’, sir.”
The man produced an envelope from his breast pocket and unfolded the piece of paper inside. It was a hotel pamphlet. It depicted an opulent brick building and uniformed doormen.
Treize was dumbstruck. The man put the pamphlet into his hands.
“We thought of booking two affordable single rooms, but we decided on the expensive suite with a sweeping living room and two bedrooms on either side with individual bathrooms. I suppose we may come off as nosy, but we thought it might be a little early to book the double bed suite.”
The pamphlet in Treize’s hands trembled.
“Not to worry, sir. We’ve told the hotel that you’re the son of a rich family, but that we couldn’t give your surname due to personal circumstances. We also told them that Miss Lillianne is your girlfriend, approved by your parents and hers. So present yourself proudly at the desk. The view from the room is spectacular, and the room itself is supposed to be very romantic. We’ve paid for your stay ahead of time. Now you can finally impress Miss Lillianne.” The woman said.
“You’ll have dinner at their four-star restaurant. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll clink glasses and promise your future together. How romantic.” The man said.
Treize looked up from the pamphlet, glaring at the couple.
“If… if I were a real prince… I would have fired you two on the spot.”
Ignoring Treize’s remark yet again, the man changed the subject.
“Take this, Your Highness.”
From his suitcase, the man produced a gun.
Treize was silenced. The weapon was a 30-centimeter miniature submachine gun. The stock was folded over the gun, and there was a magazine that held twenty rounds.
It was a fearsome weapon that could fire twenty rounds in two seconds in automatic mode.
“What the hell…”
“We’re just worried that there won’t be anyone around to protect you. We contacted someone in the Roxche military and received this prototype—no one owns this model yet. We’ve also brought a large supply of bullets and magazines. Keep this with you, and if anything should happen, use it to gallantly protect Miss Lillianne—”
“I don’t need it. As if anything’s going to happen. And why a submachine gun, of all things?” Treize sighed, astonished.
“Because your favorite hunting rifles are too heavy to carry—”
“Never mind. I don’t need it. Don’t hand firearms over to someone going on vacation.”
Treize held up his hands, adamantly refusing the weapon. The man put back the submachine gun, dissatisfied.
“And in case you were actually planning, don’t follow us all the way to the hotel.”
“Even we wouldn’t go that far, Your Highness.” The man replied, and gave his wife a look.
“Of course.” Treize said sarcastically. The man looked him in the eye then, and said in a firm tone.
“We have faith in Your Highness. And there’s only one piece of advice we have to offer you.”
“One? You’ve been telling me what to do for a while now.”
“‘Young man, you must contemplate’!”
“No one asked, okay? Where is all this coming from?”
“Contemplate on this, contemplate on that, and continue to contemplate. Contemplate thoroughly and with all your mind, until the very end.”
“I don’t need to hear it five times, all right?”
“And even if you cannot find your answer, even after all that contemplation—”
“Then I’m still gonna learn a lesson or something, right?”
“No, sir. Even if you cannot find your answer, we are not responsible. Please try to understand.”
* * *
The rain had stopped, and the clouds disappeared. The large, round moon rose at dusk, casting a bluish-white light over the fields and woods.
The sleeper train was a line of light traveling southwest across the land.
“Huh? Where’d the couple go?” Lillia wondered as she returned from the bathroom. The cabin had been rearranged, the seats replaced by beds. But Treize was the only one there. The old couple and even their luggage was gone.
“They moved. Apparently they ran into acquaintances in the dining car. They took their stuff, too.”
“Huh. You didn’t kick them out or anything, Treize?” Lillia asked dubiously. Treize almost lost his composure, but he quickly played dumb.
“Why would I do that?”
“…That’s a relief, then.”
“This is their idea of being tactful, huh.”
“Did you say something?”
Treize had a good reason for complaining. The couple, who were residents of the hidden valley in Iks and members of the kingdom’s royal guard, had left with the meaningful words “We’ll leave you two alone for the night”.
“Anyway, it looks like we can both take the bottom bunks now. You take that side.”
“You’re right. Glad we don’t have to climb up to the top bunks.” Lillia said, and tossed her pouch of toiletries on the bed opposite Treize. Then she glanced at her leather suitcase on the shelf.
“Should I get that?”
Lillia took off her shoes, climbed up the ladder on her bed, and narrowly managed to pull down her suitcase.
Treize, who was ready to step in if she needed help, sat on his bed and looked out the window. Reflected hazily in the glass were Lillia’s back as she opened her suitcase, and his own foolish face.
He lowered the shades in one go.
It was the middle of the night.
The train was traveling at reduced speed. The shaking had softened, and the sound of the wheels passing over the grooves in the tracks echoed in 3/4 time.
Each of the beds in the cabin had curtains to hide the sleeper. Treize was on the front side of the cabin, wearing a light T-shirt and shorts with a thin blanket over him. Suddenly, he opened his eyes.
Sleepily, he raised his left arm and looked at his watch. The glow-in-the-dark hands pointed to a time still far from morning.
“I’ll just drop by the bathroom…”
Quietly, he drew his curtains open and sat up.
There was just one dim light glowing orange in the cabin. They had pulled down the shades over the window and the corridor side, so the cabin was a little dark. Putting on a pair of slippers instead of his boots, Treize quietly opened the door and left for the bathroom.
Not long afterwards,
He returned to the cabin with a yawn and silently shut the door.
For a while, Treize sat blankly on his bed. The train seemed to shake more loudly than usual.
With his left hand, he adjusted the blinds and slowly changed their angle. In a single moment, white moonlight seeped inside through the gaps and filled the cabin with light. Treize quickly fumbled to adjust the angle.
Then, he leaned next to the window and peered outside.
“I wonder where we are.”
Outside was a flat plain tinted a bluish white. A canal ran parallel with the train, about ten meters from the tracks. It was about thirty meters in width. Roxche, which was mostly composed of flatlands, was crisscrossed by webs of canals that had been built over the ages.
Dozens of seconds later, Treize grew tired of the unchanging scenery and turned. Then,
His eyes met Lillia’s. Treize froze.
Lillia, wearing light green pajamas, had half-opened her curtains with her left hand was was staring at Treize as she lay on her side. Her eyes were half-open and she was glaring.
“Ah, sorry. I’ll just close the blinds—”
“Tomorrow’s garbage day.” Lillia said suddenly.
“I know, Mom. I know.”
Lillia closed her eyes and rolled on her back. Her left arm, propping the curtain open, fell onto her bed. Her hand was sticking out.
Realizing that Lillia was talking in her sleep, Treize breathed a sigh of relief.
“Just sleep talk, huh. I should get some rest.”
Reaching to adjust the blinds again, Treize found himself looking at the bed opposite.
There Lillia slept unguarded, her hair loose over her cheeks. Her eyes were shut tight, but her lips were slightly open.
Treize adjusted the blinds again, letting even more light seep inside.
And sitting on his bed, he leaned over. Just a single meter away from Lillia—an arm’s reach—and stared at her face for a long time.
The bluish-white cabin and the sound of the wheels.
Treize continued to stare, on and on.
The next morning.
Lillia opened her eyes to the blinding sun. The first thing she saw was the gaps between the slightly open blinds and the feet of the boy who was supposed to be sleeping in the bed across from hers.
Treize had fallen asleep as he sat, falling to his right. His upper body was on the bed, but his legs were stretched out toward Lillia’s. With the right side of his face smushed against his bed, Treize looked to be lost in happy sleep.
“Talk about awful sleeping habits! Who taught you to behave?!” Lillia cried indignantly. There was no answer.
“Trust me… I’ll do something…”
All she got in response was Bezelese sleep talk.
The first thing Lillia did as soon as she awoke was step down from her bed and kick Treize in the thigh.
Treize woke in an instant.