Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lillia and Treize I(Part 1): And so the Two Left on a Trip - Chapter 2

(Download the updated version in PDF/epub format here.)

Time for more Lillia and Treize. Enjoy.

-----


Chapter 2: Tourism and Reality


-----


The morning of the second day of the trip.

Lillia and Treize were on a boat.

It was a small wooden boat about fifteen meters in length. There were bench seats lined up on the deck. Above were metal railings for propping up a canvas in case of rain, but the canvas was not up now. Just one step higher than the deck, at the very back of the boat, was the wheelhouse. Black smoke was rising from the smokestack.

Leaving a trail of white over the murky water, the boat slowly proceeded with the calm vibrations of the engine. Behind was Bren’s harbor, which they had just left. Lillia and Treize had gotten off the train, entrusted Treize’s camping gear and motorcycle to the station, and had boarded a boat bound for Lartika.

It was very early in the morning. The darkness had given way completely, but the sun had yet to rise. The sky was quite clear, with just a few spots of clouds here and there. The massive Kurz Sea was covered by a cool morning mist. But because of the fog, it was impossible to see the horizon.

Lillia had put on her jacket and was sitting in a seat near the center of the boat, where the shaking was the least noticeable. Next to her was her leather suitcase and a duffel bag; next to them sat Treize, in his leather jacket.

They were the only passengers on the morning ferry. Ahead and behind were rows upon rows of empty benches.

There was no conversation between them. The boat continued into the mist with its quiet passengers.

“Talk about one heck of an awkward silence…” Treize grumbled to himself. He glanced at Lillia, who was sitting a little far from him behind their luggage. She seemed to be enjoying the boat ride, staring at the prow and further ahead.

Some time passed. Then,

“Wow…”

With a gasp, Lillia beamed. Treize looked up.

“Whoa…”

Even Treize found himself gasping. Though it was before dawn, the morning fog had cleared before he realized, and the horizon was growing clear under the clear sky. And ahead was a city.

The foundation seemed to curve with the horizon as its jagged brick silhouette came into view. From the size of its apartment buildings Treize could tell they were still quite a distance away, but that also served to emphasize the vastness of the city.

“Welcome to Lartika!” Said a middle-aged man as he suddenly came up behind them.

The man was dressed in overalls and wore a fisherman’s cap. He was the captain—no, ferryman—who had checked their tickets earlier. He was also the only crew member aboard.

“Is it okay to leave the helm?” Treize wondered.

“Just for a while, sure!” The man replied, smiling.

“Really?”

“Anyway, welcome to Lartika! It’s a little tradition I try to keep—I say that whenever we first catch sight of the place.”

“Thank you, captain. I’m so happy I finally get to be here.” Lillia said, truly awed.

“Glad to hear that, young lady. Foggy mornings like this mean it’ll be clear all day. We’re in for some beautiful weather.”

“Captain. The helm?” Treize repeated himself. The ferry seemed to be veering away from the city more and more.

“Hm. We’re all right for now!”

“Seriously…?”

The man continued to speak from behind Lillia.

“We get a lot of honeymooners from the Capital District in Lartika. I can’t count how many happy couples I got to show this fantastic view to. You know, couples that’re moved by the same things are bound to be happy! I guarantee a happy future!”

“Please guarantee a safe arrival for this ferry…” Treize grumbled under his breath.

“You have such a wonderful job.” Lillia said, turning. The man smiled.

“Thank you, young lady. For your information, the two of you’re the youngest couple I’ve ever ferried across. I’m honored to be guiding you two as you start your life together.”

“Huh? No, we’re not on a honeymoon. We’re not even dating, actually. This guy’s just my luggage bearer.” Lillia declared.

“Oh. That it, young man?” The man turned to Treize.

“Yes, Captain. And would it really be too much to ask for you to get back to the helm?”

“I see. …Good luck, young man. Your lady friend might realize how you feel, one of these days!” The captain said, returning to the wheelhouse. The boat changed heading and once more pointed at the city.

Lillia’s eyes were fixed firmly on the city. Treize complained to everyone on the boat, including himself.

“…Right.”


The fortresslike city was within an arm’s reach, and its brown brick buildings were all that could be seen.

“Now that I think about it, I’d wanted to come here for my honeymoon.” Lillia muttered.

“Then… just come back again for it.” Treize said without thinking.

“Stupid Treize.”

A terse reply.

“Now, sit down, you two. I’m docking the boat.” The captain said lazily, docking at a pontoon bridge with a ramp placed atop a drum canister.

From the center of the 5-kilometer bridge, the bridge seemed to stretch on endlessly. The captain expertly stopped the boat. With a gentle impact, the boat hit the shock absorbers made of tires.

“He’s good.” Treize said to himself.

Waiting for the two to make landing was a boat from the hotel.

A pair of men wearing suits led Lillia and Treize a little further from the piers. There was a staircase leading down, and below was a canal about ten meters wide that led directly into the city.

Next to the canal was moored a small boat about five meters long and two meters wide. It was mostly black with golden trimmings, and was clearly expensive. With Lillia and Treize’s luggage safely onboard, the boat’s electric motor and propellers began to quietly whirr.

From the canal, the streets were tranquil, and it was a little dark because of the shadows of the buildings. All they could see from the boat were the sides of the red brick buildings, but Lillia looked around in amazement all the same. Treize sat next to her, relaxed.

Soon, the boat arrived at a large pier with a staircase. Treize looked up at the left side.

“I can’t believe they went this far…”

At the top of the stairs was the luxurious hotel from the pamphlet.

“People of Ikstova. I’m so sorry for this waste of your tax money.” Treize whispered under his breath.

“Are we getting off here? Hm? Did you say something, Treize?” Lillia wondered in the midst of asking questions to a bellboy who had come to greet them.

“No, nothing. Let’s go inside.” Treize replied.


“Mr. Treize and Miss Lillianne Schultz, correct? We’ve been informed of your arrival.”

“Thank you.”

The hotel interior was more than a match for the outer architecture. Treize spoke to the employee at the front desk while a uniformed bellboy loaded their luggage onto a brass cart. Lillia was next to him, wide-eyed as she looked up at the chandelier.

Treize glanced at Lillia and showed her the key he received at the front. Suddenly, Lillia tugged on his arm.

“Treize, wait!”

“Wh-what is it?”

To Treize’s shock, Lillia suddenly leaned in toward his face. She whispered,

“Is it really okay to stay at such a fancy hotel? This isn’t a misunderstanding, right? They don’t have us confused with some other people?”

“Oh, er… it’s fine! Actually, our family knows some people in the hotel business, so we get a big discount.”

“All right…”

Lillia seemed to buy Treize’s panicked lie. Treize continued.

“I just wanted to surprise you. Allison knows too, and she agreed with the price. So don’t worry about it.”

“As long as Mom’s okay with it.” Lillia said, and looked around the lobby. Treize breathed a sigh of relief. The bellboy waited behind them, his expression blank.

Lillia and Treize were led into a simple yet elegant suite. And once the bellboy bowed and left—

“Amazing!” Lillia cried, raising her arms into the air. Treize froze for a moment before replying.

“What is? Er, wait. Yeah. It’s a great suite.”

“Who’d have thought I’d ever get to stay in such a fancy place?”

“Are you happy?” Treize asked hopefully as Lillia basked in the atmosphere. She turned and beamed.

“Of course I am! I don’t mind home, but sometimes you want to stay in a cushy place like this. This is really incredible.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Treize replied, smiling.

“It kind of feels like I’m a princess.”

His smile faded.

“Who knows? …But I think a real princess or a prince would have a lot to struggle with. Yeah.”

“Maybe. It’s great to be a commoner!”

Watching Lillia skip around the suite, Treize muttered to himself.

“It sure is.”


Afterwards, Lillia and Treize decided on their rooms. But Lillia quickly asked to switch.

“I like this one better after all. Can we trade?”

“How’s this one better?”

“The view. I like how it faces west. The sunsets must be spectacular.”

“…”

So Treize had no choice but to switch rooms.

First, they unpacked and each showered in their own bathrooms. Treize took in the view from the living room as he waited endlessly for Lillia to come out of her room.

Eventually, Lillia came outside. They had both changed out of the clothes they traveled in. Lillia had switched from her skort to a comfortable pair of cotton pants. Treize had switched his long boots for ankle-high hiking boots, but his clothing did not look much different from before.

“…Did you change?”

“I have multiples of the same clothes. It’s nice to not worry about what I have to wear.”

“…I see.”

For breakfast, they headed for the restaurant on the first floor of the hotel. They would leave to sightsee immediately afterwards, so Lillia was carrying a small bag and Treize had his belt pack.

“Is that all you’re taking?” Lillia asked. Instead of his usual leather jacket, Treize was holding a light cotton jacket.

“Yeah. We just need our wallets, right?”

“I guess that’s the perfect outfit for being my souvenir-carrier.”

“Wait, you’re going to start shopping on day one? I think we’ll have more than enough time on the last day.”

“I’m the type of girl who has to take care of all her responsibilities first.”

“What about your homework?”

“That’s a different story. It’s not a good idea to apply the same standards to everything.”

“Of course, Milady.”

At the restaurant, they were led to their seats by a waiter. On the table were clearly-expensive silverware and delicate-looking glasses.

Soon, other guests entered the restaurant as well. Lillia’s excitement at their high-class breakfast was dampened by the sight of so many patrons in middle age or later, dressed in fancy clothes. She whispered to Treize.

“Hey, Treize… don’t we stick out like a sore thumb?”

“Just act cool.” Treize replied without looking at her, focused on tearing off a piece of bread and buttering the surface.

“Yeah, but…”

After the bread, Treize savored a sip of his carbonated water, complete with ice and lemon slice.

“Treize, are you by any chance from a rich family?”

“What? Wh-where’d that come from?” Treize asked, putting down his glass.

“You just look so used to places like this. You’re really good at using all this silverware, and… you look really convincing.”

“…It’s all about confidence.” Treize said, after a moment of thought. Lillia was clearly displeased.

“What, you mean I’m being too shy?”

“I don’t mean it like that. I’m just saying that as long as you have confidence, everyone will think we’re rich people, too. It’s the same at your school, right?”

“I guess. Everyone at the secondary school is rich. I mean, we’re not poor, but they’re just on a different level.”

“But no one says anything as long as you’re a confident student, right? It’s the same thing here.”

“Hmph. Anyway, where’d you learn your table manners? Your parents?”

“Nah, my parents don’t really care about that stuff. I learned from all the uncles and aunties near the village. They’re really strict people.”

“Huh.”

“There’s nothing good about it, really. I’d love to just squirt ketchup onto my fries and eat them with my hands.”

“Whoa… hey, I’m not a barbarian like you.”

“You’re the one who brought it up, Lillia.”

“Just kidding. Heh heh.”

Excited for the trip, they shared a meal and conversation at the expensive restaurant.


Lartika was laid arranged like a grid. Every building was of a uniform color and style, and the streets were perfectly straight. A large canal ran through the center of every major street. Over the smaller, branching canals were stone arch bridges.

The roads were covered in stones worn smooth. There wasn’t a single gasoline-powered car in sight in the city, only small electric cars. Gondolas and small boats made up the majority of transportation, and stairs leading down to the canals were everywhere.

At a wide street lined with apartments, Treize unfolded a very large map. It was the tourist’s guide he had picked up at the hotel.

“Let’s see… Streets with canals that are wide enough for motorized boats are given numbers. East-west streets have odd numbers, starting from the north, and north-south streets have even numbers, starting from the east. Right now, we’re on the southwest corner of 13 and 8. And that number at the end is probably the building number. This is a really easy system to learn. It’s a world away from the labyrinths in Ikstova.”

“You’re going to fall into a canal if you don’t take your eyes off that map.” Lillia warned from behind.

The sun had risen quite high as they walked. Behind them was the hotel, from where they had been seen courteously seen off. The hotel had offered to assign them a private tour guide, but they refused.

Treize stopped and scrutinized the map.

“I expected nothing less from a tourist destination. There’s so much to see in this range alone.”

Lillia peered over.

“Over here’s an art gallery. Next to that is a history museum. There’s a big stage here for performances. They have fishing ports in the north and west, and there’s a street full of eateries next to them. Over there’s a marketplace for souvenirs. And there are piers everywhere.” Treize explained, pointing out places on the map. “They even marked out places of historic interest and facilities where you can tour buildings. There are docks for gondolas everywhere, and the wider canals have motorboat buses. They charge per person per block. And I don’t see anything that looks like an overpriced tourist trap around here.” He said, excited.

“…”

But unlike Treize, Lillia just looked around dubiously. Treize quickly noticed her state.

“What’s wrong?”

“Huh? No, well…” Lillia said doubtfully. “Isn’t it a little… quiet around here?”

“Now that you mention it…”

Realizing what she meant, Treize looked around as well. The apartments lined by the hotel generally reserved their ground floors for businesses, but most of them were closed. There were very few people walking along the streets, and they saw almost no gondolas on the canals.

“I swear I saw more tourists than this when I saw Lartika on the news as a kid. This doesn’t make sense. It’s summertime.” Lillia said. “I saw this place on a color television about ten years ago. The city looks the same but there were a lot more people around, and I couldn’t even count all the gondolas on the canals. There were open-air stalls on every street, too. It was more lively than this.”

“You think maybe the captain made a mistake?” Treize joked, but Lillia was silent. “…Let’s look around a bit more. There’s a street full of souvenir stands just two blocks ahead. Wanna check it out?”

This time, Lillia nodded.

“This way.”

She began to walk with Treize.


“Are you sure this is the place?” Lillia asked.

“Yep.” Treize replied.

They were standing at a street. It was a mid-sized road with no canal running down the middle. The road was lined with small, square brick buildings reminiscent of workshops or warehouses. The first floor of every building was a business. Sunshades and signs lined the walls. There was a sign that read, ‘Western Souvenir Street’.

“It’s quiet.”

“I wonder if they’ve already closed for the day.”

Lillia and Treize mumbled. This street as well was noticeably lethargic. The shutters were closed on about half the businesses. Although there were some open-air cafes by the street, there weren’t more than one or two people in the seats. There were some tourists around, but not many.

“W-well, it’s still morning. And it’s just the start of summer break, too.” Treize theorized in vain as Lillia remained silent.

Eventually, she began to walk. Treize followed.

After briefly examining a show window, Lillia began to walk again. There was a sign labeled ‘Closing soon’ on the door of a wooden doll workshop she was interested in.

“…”

She began to walk again. Treize quietly followed.

After looking at about a dozen stores, Lillia finally entered one souvenir shop. It sold cups, plates, small brooches, and other ceramic trinkets. The store was open.

“Oh my! Welcome, welcome.”

The bell on the door chimed; a woman in her mid-forties looked up and greeted the two with a smile. The store was stuffed full of souvenirs.

“Can we take a look?”

“Be my guest. Take your time.”

Lillia looked a little happier as the shopkeeper described the products to her. Treize shrugged lightly.

Eventually, Lillia decided on what she wanted to buy—some small accessories like brooches, pins, and badges. She put them in a wisteria-weave basket and took them to the counter. She paid the shopkeeper, who put the souvenirs in a paper bag, and received her change.

“Thank you. It’s been a while since I last had customers—and a young lady, to boot. Please, come again.”

“…Er, I have a question. Are there not as many people here as before?”

The shopkeeper nodded many times.

“That’s right. We used to get so many more tourists.”

And as if on cue, she began to explain passionately about the state of the city.

That she had been doing business for over thirty years now, but the number of visitors began to drop around the time the war with Sou Be-Il came to an end. That the drop became even more pronounced in the past ten years. That locals suspected the aeroplane industry, which enabled people from the Capital District to travel further.

“There’s another reason, actually. Iks.”

Treize looked up. He silently turned his gaze from the plates on the wall to the two women.

“You two are from the Capital District, yes? Isn’t Iks the most popular destination now?”

“Well… probably.” Lillia replied. She had visited Iks almost every year since she was old enough to remember, and was almost sick of it.

“People used to come to Lartika before. But Now it’s all about Iks. Everyone’s off to Iks. Apparently it’s the mountains. After it took first place in a poll, Iks only became more famous and drained Lartika’s popularity. That’s what everyone says. That Iks is stealing our tourists. Did you know? Before Iks came into the spotlight, half the Confederation’s tourism budget went to Lartika. But we lost most of it because Queen What’s-her-name of Iks is so young and beautiful.”

Treize quietly listened to the shopkeeper complaining to Lillia.

“Tolcasia isn’t a very fertile country. All we have is a lakeshore lined with trees you can barely use for firewood. Our agricultural and fishing industries aren’t very profitable, either. That’s why children from poorer families have always come to Lartika to make money. They’d work in a souvenir workshop or do porter work. Their cheap labor was what sustained the city. Children from slums by the lakeshore can’t even afford the ferry, so they make boats of their own or swim to Lartika clinging to driftwood.”

“I see…”

“That’s how desperate they are for money. There were some jobs for them, at least, back when our tourism industry was flourishing. But now that the tourists are gone, those children can’t find a job anywhere. Some resort to pickpocketing or mugging just to survive. Even if they’re caught and sent back where they came from, they come back. But the politicians in the Capital District won’t do a thing to help us.”

“I had no idea…” Lillia said, upset.

“Oh dear. I didn’t mean to sound like I was blaming you two. Please cheer up. You came all the way to visit Lartika, and you even gave me some business. You have no idea how grateful I am. I’m so sorry if I offended you.” The talkative shopkeeper said.

“No, not at all. I’m glad I got to understand the situation a little better.”

“Please, come again.”

“Thank you. Have a good day.” Lillia said, and turned. Treize nodded lightly at the shopkeeper.

“Thank you.”

With the shopkeeper’s voice behind them, Lillia and Treize stepped out into the street. It was still as empty as ever—the city did not look like a tourist destination during vacation season.

The moment Treize began to walk,

“What a talkative lady.” Lillia said brightly from behind him.

“…”

But Treize did not answer.

“Hmph.”

Lillia lightly kicked him in the rear.

“Whoa! What’re you doing?” Treize stumbled, turning around.

“Don’t start moping like that! I bet you’re blaming yourself right now, am I right?”

“Ah—…yeah.”

Shocked, Treize nodded slightly.

“Do you have any idea how worried I was that you’d apologize to the lady while we were in there?”

“I wouldn’t—”

“Don’t worry about it! It’s not your fault. Iks is such a popular place because the queen and the people worked so hard for it. I grew up seeing that with my own two eyes.”

Lillia pointed at Treize. She seemed to have gotten back her energy—she was almost back to her usual self. Treize smiled.

“All right. I got it.”

“Good!”

“Where to next? More shopping?”

“Of course. I’m going to try and do all my shopping today. Let’s go find some scarves.” Lillia replied, walking off again.

“All right. Let’s go.”


It was almost noon, and shadows were almost disappearing underfoot.

“This should be about enough. I checked off everything on my list. I think I have everything.” Lillia said, placing her hands on her hips.

“I can’t carry any more anyway…” Treize replied, five paper bags hanging from his right arm, four from his left arm, and three large boxes on top of his arms. They were walking down a narrow alleyway that had no canal. With no windows on the walls around them, it was like walking through a little valley.

“Whoa…”

Treize narrowly caught the top box with his chin as it began to slide away. A droplet of sweat ran down his forehead.

“Don’t complain. We’re going back to the hotel now.”

“Okay. But before that… did you notice?”

Lillia nodded slightly. And she continued to walk slowly as she replied.

“The kid that’s following us.”

“Yeah. And I get the feeling he’s not here to help me with the souvenirs.”

A small figure stirred in the street corner, about twenty meters behind Treize. The child was about ten years old. He was wearing a messy brown shirt and long black pants. Under his short-billed cap his eyes glinted as he stared at Lillia and Treize.

“You think he’s a pickpocket?”

“Probably. We’re in a deserted alley now, so I think he might make a move soon.”

“Even if he does… I’m sure you’ll manage, Treize.”

“With all this stuff in my arms? I can toss it all and chase away the kid, but you’re gonna lose at least a couple of things if I do that.”

“No way. I can’t just go up to my friends and tell them, ‘Sorry, the souvenirs I bought for you got stolen’.”

“No.”

“And how could I tell them that the guy I went on vacation with ended up being totally useless?”

“By that, you mean me.”

“If you let the kid do what he wants, yeah.”

“That won’t do. Then what? Should I take out a gun and fire warning shots? I’d run if I were him.”

“That’s a good idea. But you don’t have a gun, do you?”

“Then how about I warn him, ‘You’d better not make this girl mad. She’s got a pretty horrifying violent streak’.”

“…Are you asking me to kick you again?”

“Can we run?”

“No.”

“Then…”

They continued to discuss ideas as they walked down the alley. The buildings seemed to end a little further ahead, but it was hard to see what was in the light beyond.

The boy came out from behind the corner and quickly walked up to them.

“He’s here. Do something.”

“Like what…?”

Lillia stopped. Treize stopped as well, and caught the sliding boxes again.

Turning, Lillia glared at the child. He came up to them anyway. There were now only ten meters between them.

“Hey, where’re you two going? There’s nothing there that way.” Said the child.

“Huh?” Lillia gaped.

“There’s nothing but the lake out there. I’ve been watching you for a bit. Where are you trying to go, anyway?”

“What?”

Lillia and Treize exchanged glances. Then they looked at the child.

“What do you mean?”


At the end of the alleyway, obscured by the light, was the lake. The edge of the buildings were also the edge of the city and land. Lillia and the boy stood there.

“You were right.”

“I followed you ‘cause I was wondering why you’d go this way.” The boy said.

“I see. Thank you.” Lillia replied, going back down the alleyway with him. Treize was waiting with all her souvenirs.

“Did we make a wrong turn?”

“Completely. This is the northern edge of town.” Lillia said, and turned to the boy.

“I’m sorry. We were scared that you were going to do something bad.”

“What? Like pickpocketing?”

“Well… yeah.”

“I would never!” The boy said angrily. Lillia apologized again.

“We know now. We’re really sorry.”

“I mean, I found out that doing stuff like that isn’t worth the effort.”

“What?”

“Pickpocketing, I mean. If the city police catches you, you’ll be locked up for three days. And then they kick you out of Lartika. It’s just not worth it.”

“Which means you must have tried it before.” Treize said snidely. The boy ignored him.

“Anyway, I gave up on doing stuff that’ll get me arrested. From now on, I’m using my brains. You two should hire me! Just give me a bit of money, and I’ll show you around! I’ll introduce you to all the best restaurants!”

The boy looked up expectantly at Lillia. She stared back. Then she turned to Treize.

“What do we do?”

“It’s up to you. Although I, for one, welcome the chance to finally get to the hotel without another wrong turn.”

The boy asked Lillia for the name of the hotel. When Lillia told him, his eyes turned to dinner plates.

“Wow. That’s a really fancy place, y’know. Guess you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Then, the boy offered them a price for guiding them that distance.

“Hm… all right. Better than getting lost again.”

“All right! Negotiation complete!” The boy cheered.

“But we’re not paying you until we reach the hotel.”

“Tch. Talk about cheap. So I can’t just take the money and run.”

“Is that what you were planning?” Treize groaned. Lillia ignored him.

“Let’s get going before my friend gets flattened under the souvenirs.”


“My name is Lillia. This is Treize. What’s your name?”

“It’s my personal policy to never tell passing acquaintances my name. ‘Cause that makes it sadder when we say goodbye, you know? So I’m not gonna call your names, either. I’m just gonna call you big bro and big sis.”

“Talk about cheeky. Looks like Lillia’s gonna have to teach you a lesson.”

“Quiet, Treize. All right, then. You can tell us your name when you feel like it.”

If I feel like it.”

Guided by the boy, Lillia and Treize passed through alleyways and crossed bridges to finally reach the hotel. They never had to take a major numbered street. They must have cut through the shortest distance possible.

“What do you think?” The boy said proudly.

“That was amazing. You’re really good.” Lillia praised him.

“All right. Where’s my pay?”

“You did a good job. I’ll keep my end of the bargain—”

“Feel free to give me a tip, too.”

“A tip? I’m surprised someone your age knows about that stuff. Here you are.”

“Tch.”

From her purse, Lillia took out a single coin marked with a leaf. But just as she held it out to the boy—

“Hey, you!” Someone roared.

“Whoa.”

“The boy snatched the coin from Lillia and bolted. Then came the screech of a whistle.

“Hold it right there!”

The voices belonged to police officers dressed in dark blue uniforms. There were two of them, both in their thirties—and both passed by Lillia and Treize and chased down the boy.

“What’s going on?”

“Who knows?”

As Lillia and Treize(still carrying an armful of souvenirs) watched, the officers caught the boy. One of them grabbed the struggling boy by the back of the collar.

“Hold still!”

“Let me go! I didn’t do anything!”

One of the officers dragged the screaming boy to Lillia. The other spoke.

“This boy just stole your money, didn’t he, Miss?”

Lillia immediately shook her head.

“No. He just showed us how to get here, so I wanted to compensate him. It’s proper payment.”

“Yeah! It’s all proper!”

The officer ignored the boy.

“That is illegal, I’m afraid.”

“What?”

“In this city, it is illegal to give directions or introduce lodgings for pay unless you are an officially registered city guide. And there’s no way a child like this could be a guide. He shouldn’t be charging money for his services.”

“But he still helped us out.” Lillia pointed out, but the officer’s reply was final.

“That may be true. But if we let this one slide, countless children from nearby villages will flock here and do exactly what this boy just did. We already have a surplus of children from other towns mugging and pickpocketing from tourists. What if those children extort money from tourists, or if they fail to find work and end up turning to worse crimes? That would make the city less safe for tourists, when we’re already hard pressed for visitors.”

“…”

Lillia could say nothing. The officer forced the boy’s hand open and took back the coin.

“This belongs to you.” He said, handing the coin to Lillia. She took it, astonished.

“Enjoy your stay, then.”

As the officers left with the boy in tow, Lillia stopped them.

“Wait. What are you going to do with him?”

“We’ll send him back home if possible, but—”

“As if! I don’t have a home! We were so poor my parents had to kick me out!” The boy howled. Sympathy rose to the officers’ eyes, then disappeared. One of them spoke in a mechanical tone.

“As for children who have nowhere to return, we send them to a facility in a village a little further from here.”

“What?! What facility?!”

The other officer scolded the boy, telling him to quiet down, and took him away. The remaining officer explained.

“It’s a facility where children are supported until they can become independent. It provides a comfortable living environment and education to children who cannot go to school, and helps them find job opportunities in bigger cities, like the Capital District.”

“Is that facility… all right?” Lillia asked. The officer nodded.

“Of course. It’s been in operation for twenty years now—a man we call ‘Master’ worked very hard to start the facility by himself. There are more kids there these days because Lartika’s tourism industry’s in a bit of a slump, but… please try to understand. We’re doing what we can, as well.”

“I see…”

“If you’ll excuse me. Please, enjoy your stay.”

The officer departed.

“…”

Lillia said nothing, staring at the coin in her hand before stuffing it into her jacket.


Lillia and Treize were at the hotel restaurant. Just like at breakfast, they sat at a fancy table with polished silverware and glasses before them, and were dressed in casual outfits while surrounded by adults in formal clothes.

They dug in as though all of that was completely normal. Lillia ordered fish meunière and salad, and Treize ordered beef cutlet and minestrone soup. They were both served with bread.

“Phew.”

Polishing off her plate with incredible speed, Lillia took a sip of water and slammed her glass on the table.

“…Are you trying to eat away your frustration?” Treize wondered, hand stopping partway through silent sips of his soup.

“No.” Lillia said brusquely.

“All right, then.”

Eventually, Treize finished as well. The waiter brought them dessert. Vanilla ice cream and cranberry ice cream served in beautiful glass bowls. Mint leaves and small biscuits were stuck in the scoops.

“…This, too.” Lillia said, taking a spoonful. “This is gonna help the city’s economy, right?”

“Yeah.” Treize replied, scooping ice cream into his mouth. “This is good.”

“Say, Treize?”

“Hm?”

Lillia drew zigzags in her ice cream with the tip of her spoon, not looking at Treize.

“I feel like I’m in the wrong city.”

“…”

Treize waited for the ice cream to melt in his mouth before he spoke.

“It’s not your fault, Lillia.”

“I know.” Lillia replied immediately.

“…”

Treize put down his spoon.

“Now that we’ve gotten the shopping over with, do you want to go somewhere else? My motorcycle’s back in Bren, so we can go wherever you want.”

Lillia looked up, a little surprised.

“Is that why you brought it?”

“No, but…” Treize shook his head.

“Forget Lartika and go camping, you mean?”

“I’m kidding. We still have places to see here, right?”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Anyway, for now—”

“Yeah?”

“—let’s finish the ice cream before it melts.”

“Yeah. Everything they serve here is really good.” Lillia mumbled, taking another spoonful. “It really is.”


-----



-----

2 comments:

  1. "And it’s just the start of sumer break, too." You missed a m in summer. <:

    Thanks for the translation!

    ReplyDelete