Have a Lillia and Treize chapter. Enjoy.
Chapter 4: The Guiding One
Late-summer evening approached. The tilting sun began to lose light and the sky turned a darker shade of blue. In the dense forest, the sunlight didn’t even reach the ground—it was even darker there than it was outside.
The grass was wet and thick roots wound everywhere, making it quite difficult to hike through.
“How’d we end up like this?”
Lillia and Treize were walking through the woods.
Exhausted from their long walk in the heat, they had taken off the tops of their flight suits and had tied them around their waists. Lillia rolled up the sleeves of her blouse and unbuttoned the top button, and was carrying the two cloth bags from the floatplane on her back.
Treize was down to his white T-shirt, with his belt pack over his flight suit. His gun was still in the belt pack in front of him. He had tied together their two leather aviator jackets into a makeshift backpack, loaded it with their aviator hats and gloves, and slung it around his shoulders.
“It’s hard to walk in the forest, and it’s steaming hot out here, and there’s bugs…”
Lillia complained endlessly.
Treize agreed calmly as he followed from about three meters behind.
They had walked for over an hour since their plane was wrecked. With the lake on their left, they had been heading east toward the city. It would have been much easier if they could walk along the lakeshore, but that would provide them with no cover if the fighter crafts spotted them. So they were forced to maintain a certain distance from the lake as they traversed the woods.
Eventually, Treize glanced at his watch.
“Let’s take a break.”
“Why? I’m still good to go.”
“Still, it’s important to rest regularly. After all, we don’t know how much more we’ll have to walk.”
Treize picked out a tree, and after making sure there were no insects crawling on it he sat down on one of its roots. With the jackets still on his back he leaned against the tree to rest. Lillia waded through the grass and sat by a tree across from Treize and stretched her legs.
She then took out a metal cylinder about 20 centimeters long and 10 centimeters wide from one of her bags. It was a hefty water bottle. She grumbled.
“This thing’s weighing me down.”
“It must’ve been heavy. But it’s important.” Treize replied, and held out his hand. Lillia tossed him the bottle, which flew about two meters and landed in Treize’s hand.
The lid of the bottle was a cup that covered the cylinder. Treize pulled it off and opened a small stopper underneath. Then, he sniffed the contents before pouring it into the cup. There was a steady stream of clean water.
“Looks pretty good. I’m impressed—Mr. Mateo must’ve restocked his emergency kit often.”
Lillia stopped as she pulled out her own bottle and glared.
“I’m going to make sure that lunatic gets what he deserves. You better come testify at the trial, Treize!”
“As you wish, Milady.”
Treize drank slowly, as though trying just to moisten his lips. He then advised Lillia not to drink too much.
“I know that.” She replied brusquely, quenching her thirst at a steady pace.
After putting back their bottles, they took a short rest.
Lillia said as she looked at the sky through the leaves. Treize’s eyes were closed.
“That fighter craft shot the plane on purpose, right? Why’d they do that?”
Treize opened his eyes.
“Dunno. They were probably trying to make sure we couldn’t get anywhere.”
“In other words, they wanted to make sure we couldn’t get somewhere to report them. They might have wanted to kill us, but they couldn’t have seen us because we were in the woods. They didn’t land and come after us because they were either pressed for time or they were cautious because I have a gun. Anyway, you know how they say you can’t hear an aeroplane coming until it’s too late if it’s flying really low? I never knew that was true until today.”
“Now’s not the time for stupid observations.”
“And I figured out one more thing.”
“The two fighter crafts we saw earlier were the ones that attacked us. Or maybe there were three of them. I couldn’t confirm because of the gunfire, though. But what that means is that our deranged pilot’s friends are also deranged. We’ve got more people to interrogate now.”
“What do we do now?” Lillia wondered. Treize shrugged.
“What can we do? We have to keep walking and get somewhere. Everything else comes after. Although it might take a few days.”
“All right. I’ll walk ‘til my feet fall off.”
“I like your spirit, but let’s rest for now.” Treize said, closing his eyes once more.
* * *
“Yes! I’m over here, Mother!”
Meriel raised her voice at her mother’s call. She was dressed in overalls, sitting in the cockpit of an aeroplane in an hangar with her head bowed as she occupied herself with something. The small, agile biplane was about 10 meters long, and was the only plane occupying the 50-meter-long hangar at the moment. The hangar’s multi-layered shutters were all closed and only the ceiling lights directly over the plane were on.
“Still working away, honey?”
Her mother Fiona came up to the plane.
“What is it, Mother?” Meriel asked, poking her head out of the cockpit. Fiona was looking up at her.
“It’s almost dinnertime.”
“Already? Time flies.”
Meriel glanced at the small window further down the hangar. Beyond the frosted glass she could see the sky burning orange in the light of dusk.
“All right. …I can’t believe I couldn’t finish again today.”
Mumbling to herself, Meriel picked up a bag containing a small flashlight and tools and climbed out of the cockpit. Stepping on the main wing under the fuselage, she landed on the floor.
“Dinner~ Dinner~ I’ll just wash my hands, Mom. Wait for me?”
Meriel walked over to a sink on the wall, took off her work gloves, and lathered soap on her greasy hands. She spoke to her mother as she continued.
“I bet Treize must be getting all anxious at the hotel by now. Although I doubt he’ll bring her home after the trip.”
“Oh? What would you do if he did, honey?”
“I don’t know.”
Rinsing her hands with water, Meriel fell into thought.
“What would you do?” Fiona asked again.
Meriel turned off the tap as she replied.
“It’s so impossible I can’t even imagine it.”
As Meriel passed cruel judgement on her brother,
“We might have to camp out today…”
Treize was in a dark forest. He and Lillia had drawn as close to the lake as they could, and found that the sun had already set and the sky above was a dark blue. The full moon had just begun to rise, tinting the tree-obscured sky a pale blue.
Treize looked as far east as he could—in the direction of Lartika and Bren. But the lights that should be visible at that time of day were nowhere to be seen.
“Tch. So we’re not gonna be staying at that hotel tonight.” Lillia complained for the hundredth time that day, leaning against a tree.
“We can stay at the hotel whenever we want later, Lillia.” Treize consoled her. “We’ll take care of the business with Mr. Mateo before we get back to the hotel.”
“Right… You’re right. That’s the important part. I’m such an idiot.” Lillia replied, lightly punching herself. Treize watched curiously as he replied.
“At least it’s summertime—we won’t have to worry about freezing to death. And we have water, since we’re by the lake. If we dig a hole in the woods and start a campfire there, they won’t be able to spot us from above.”
“That’s fine, but I’m still good to go. Let’s go a little farther!”
“Rule #1 of camping out is to find a safe place to stay while it’s still light out.”
“That’s only when you have to set up a tent. We’re just going to cover ourselves with jackets today, so it doesn’t matter where we sleep. The moon’s bright, so we might as well keep going down the shore.” Lillia said. She had a point—once the massive moon was up, it would illuminate the world clearly.
“True. But still…”
“It’s decided. Let’s keep moving. I’m sure we’ll get an extra shot of motivation once we spot lights from a town or something. Follow me, servant!” Lillia said in mock haughtiness. Treize gave up on arguing and did as he was told.
“Thank you for the meal. It looks as delicious as ever.”
At a humble dinner table in the Kingdom of Iks, Meriel joined the table where her parents waited and looked up at a steaming pot of cheese. At the same time—
“Do we keep going?”
Treize and Lillia were walking endlessly along the Kurz Sea in the country of Tolcasia. Pushing their feet into the sand under the pale blue moon, they were walking along a narrow sandbank.
“Tired already?” Lillia asked as Treize stopped in front of her.
“Yeah, but I’m fine for now.” He replied.
“Then why’d you stop?”
“Huh? Oh. I just thought the lake was really beautiful.” Treize replied, turning to the lake with its gentle waves and the hazy horizon in the distance.
“It’s like you’re not worried at all.”
“Maybe.” Treize said, walking again.
“Thank you. That was delicious.” Meriel said as she finished her meal. At the same time—
“You know what they say about hungry soldiers. I’m not really being a glutton, you know.”
“Of course, Milady.”
Lillia and Treize were sitting on a pale blue beach for dinner. Their emergency supply kit was packed with hard crackers and a small bottle of strawberry jam. They dipped the crackers in the jam. Lillia ate faster than Treize.
“Breakfast and lunch were so decadent that I actually don’t mind eating like this.”
“Are you being sarcastic, Treize? Anyway, we’ll walk a bit more after this to work off the food.”
The sound of munching echoed across the tranquil lake.
“Ahh… This feels great.” Meriel said as she slid into the bathtub in her own bathroom, surrounded by fluffy bubbles. At the same time—
“It’s hot at night, too.”
“It is summertime…”
Lillia and Treize were sweating profusely as they walked through the woods.
Because the beach was not wide enough for them to walk on without getting their feet wet, they were forced back into the forest. Lillia and Treize had to climb with both hands as they clambered over the thick roots on the ground. The air in the forest was humid and dense. Their faces and shirts were soaked.
“How about we set up camp somewhere around here? It’s getting late.” Treize proposed. Lillia did not deign to turn around.
“Not yet. I’d still be listening to the radio at this hour if I were home.”
“So you’re a night owl?”
“So what if I am?” Lillia replied, pressing onward.
“Good night, Mother. And Father? Please shave that beard.” Meriel said to her parents as she left the living room and headed for her own room. At the same time—
“I can’t believe we’ve come this far.”
“It’s midnight. Just past it.”
Because of the time difference, Lillia and Treize were already experiencing midnight. The eighth day of the seventh month had begun.
With the cool night breeze against them, they resumed walking down the beach. The wind was cold against their soaked bodies, so Lillia and Treize both pulled up their flight suits again.
“Let’s rest now. We’ve come a long way.” Treize said from behind Lillia as he stopped. They had traveled over 10 kilometers since evening, resting at regular intervals.
“Damn it! How much longer do we have to walk before we see a town?!” Lillia complained for the first time that say, kicking the damp sand underfoot toward the lake.
“There’s no point trying to compare our walking speed to aeroplanes. Even a hundred kilometers is nothing if you’re flying.” Treize said, sitting on the shore that happened to be about a chair’s height from the water’s surface. The moon was shining brilliantly in the sky. The white moon and the pale blue sky were so bright that none of the stars were visible.
As Lillia stood indignantly, Treize took off the watch on his left wrist and wound it.
Putting the watch back on, Treize said to Lillia’s back,
“What do you want to do?”
She did not answer.
“My legs are tired. I think we’ll be best off just going to sleep under a tree nearby.”
She did not answer.
“We might have to walk all day tomorrow, too. And maybe even the day after. It’s important to get rest. We slept on a train last night; we probably didn’t feel very rested.”
She did not answer.
“Lillia? Are you sleeping on your feet?”
“As if I could!” Lillia retorted, finally turning. “Just a little more! We’ll walk until the next time we have to rest! And if we still don’t find a town… I’ll give in, too.”
Treize shrugged in surrender and stood.
“All right. We’ll do that.”
They began to walk again under the moonlight.
It was only several minutes after they started walking again that they found the cabin.
Lillia and Treize peered out from behind a large tree trunk. The cabin stood alone in the woods, under the pale blue sky.
It was a log cabin about 10 meters square, built by a small stream that flowed into the lake. The foundation was firmly paved with bricks, as was the chimney. It was a sturdy building that could last a very long time. Behind it was a small plywood building, most likely a bathroom.
A 30-meter radius around the cabin had been cleared so that the lake was visible. The clearing was a carefully-groomed yard, with small trees planted at regular intervals, brick-lined flower beds, and a small embankment as well. Firewood was stacked before the back wall.
There was no light at all coming from the four windows.
“What is this?” Lillia wondered as she and Treize watched from behind the tree.
“A mysterious cabin in the forest. No lights, no people to be seen.” Treize summarized. Lillia angrily pointed out that that was obvious.
“Then what do you want me to say?”
“I want to know why there would be a cabin all the way in the woods like this.”
“Don’t tell me… is this a trap?”
“What?” Treize gasped.
“Maybe they’re trying to lure us into the cabin—”
“Wasn’t there a fairy tale like that? There was a witch who tried to eat a brother and sister who got lost in the woods. She got the brother to prepare a pot so she could cook the sister… or was it the other way around?”
“Exactly. That pilot and his buddies might have lured us here. As soon as we stagger in there, they’ll have us—hook, line, and sinker.”
“I would give them a pat on the back if they went all the way to the trouble of building an entire cabin, complete with a beautiful yard, just so they could capture us.” Treize said sarcastically.
“Then you mean it’s not a trap?”
“If nothing else, they probably didn’t build the cabin. But what is this place, then? It’s too fancy for a hunting outpost. It’s even got a garden.”
“Maybe the owner’s out. All right. We’ll sleep here today. Much better than camping out, right? We’ll get some actual rest.” Lillia said matter-of-factly. Treize’s eyes widened.
“Sleep? In there?”
Lillia met his gaze.
“Yeah. It’s perfect.”
“I’m not too sure about that. What if someone’s inside?”
“I feel a bit bad, but we’ll have to wake them up. I’m sure they’ll understand once we explain.” Lillia said. Treize shook his head.
“It’s the opposite—we might end up getting the people in there involved.”
Lillia did not reply, but her eyes did not leave Treize. She seemed a little impressed. Treize grinned—
“Then we just won’t tell them anything.” Lillia said as she walked over to the cabin. Treize hurried after her.
“Sorry to intrude so late!” Lillia said loudly as she knocked at the door, which faced away from the lake. She waited for a moment, but the cabin was silent. The cooing of the birds in the woods seemed a little louder.
“Sorry to intrude so late! We’re lost! Please help us!”
She knocked again and waited. Silence.
“I don’t think anyone’s here.” Lillia said as she turned to Treize.
“Yeah. No one was here today, at least.” Treize surmised. Lillia was quick to respond.
“How do you know that? Don’t tell me you actually know who lives here.”
“No way. Look at the left wall.”
Lillia peered at the left side of the building and examined the window and wall.
“See the kitchen drainage pipe below? Look at the ground under it. It’s only as wet as the rest of the ground. And there’s no sign of water passing through, either. It means no one used any water here since it rained two days ago.”
“I see… that was clever of you.” Lillia admitted, looking impressed for a moment. She reached for the doorknob.
“Sorry. We’ll be using the cabin for the night.”
The door opened with ease. It must have been unlocked.
Apologizing to the absent owner, Lillia stepped inside. Treize wiped his dirty shoes on the mat at the entrance and followed after her.
Most of the cabin interior was composed of a single room. There were several pillars, but no walls dividing the space. A small table was by the entrance, and in front of that was a kitchen with a water tank installed on the wall. There was a cooking stove with a chimney routed outside, and cabinets filled with dishes and silverware. On the right side of the door was a brick fireplace and chimney, and further inside the room was a simple wooden bed.
From the neatness of the cabin, it seemed like it was not abandoned. Everything, from the plank floors to the humble furniture, was silently bathed in moonlight as though time had stopped.
Lillia hesitantly spoke. Her voice sounded particularly loud.
“No one’s here, right? Then we’ll be staying the night! Thank you!” Said Treize in place of the silent Lillia, making a deliberate show of speaking loudly as he reached back and shut the door.
At the royal palace in the Kingdom of Iks, Meriel slept peacefully and comfortably in her own bed. At the same time—
“Well… I’m only letting you sleep in the same room as me because it’s an emergency. All right?”
Lillia and Treize were preparing to go to sleep in the cabin in the woods.
Lillia lay on the bed with her jacket over her in place of blankets. Treize sat on the left side of the bed with the blankets under him. He was also wearing his flight suit and had put a jacket over himself.
“Let’s get some sleep for now. Today was such a hectic day…”
“But! We have to walk as much as we can tomorrow, too. We’ll avenge Mr. Mateo, no matter what!”
With a loud yawn, Treize glanced at his watch.
“The radio broadcasts in the Capital District must have ended by now.”
“I get the point, okay? Good night.” Said Lillia.
Treize also bid her good night.
There was silence. Treize quietly reached for his belt pack, which was still wrapped around his waist. He could see a glimmer of black between the open zipper.
He brushed the glint with his fingers, as though to check it was there, then put his leather jacket over himself and closed his eyes with his back against the bed.
Sleep washed over him. But at that moment—
“Just to warn you!”
Lillia’s voice chased away his drowsiness.
“Just to warn you, you’d better not up and leave without telling me!”
“Okay, I’ll keep watch from here. I even rigged the door.” Treize replied without opening his eyes.
There was a thread tied to the doorknob from the inside. It was tied to a precariously-balanced chair set up to fall as soon as the door opened.
With that, silence once again returned to the cabin.
Lillia lay asleep on the bed, and Treize—sitting next to her—also slept.
They remained exactly where they were as time passed in silence.
The pale blue light seeped in through the window. Only the shadow of the frame moved, slowly brushing over Treize’s black hair and Lillia’s face.
When morning neared, the moon fell toward the west and light began to shine through the kitchen window.
His shadow was far from Treize and Lillia. It moved silently over the wooden plank floor.
Standing without a word in the center of the room, he looked down at the sleeping duo.
For a very long time, he did not move.
Suddenly, he pulled a knife from behind his back. It was a thin black knife over 20 centimeters long.
He drew closer to Treize, knife in hand.
“Just you wait, Meriel…”
The figure stopped when Treize suddenly spoke.
“Just you wait, Meriel… I swear…”
Treize’s Bezelese sleep talk filled the quiet cabin.
* * *
It was just before dawn, and the world was full of light. The light outside illuminated the cabin, bringing shapes into focus and emphasizing their presence.
The light reached Lillia’s face as well as she slept on the bed. The sunlight highlighted her every eyelash. Her eyelids twitched.
She opened her eyes.
Not being a heavy sleeper like her mother, Lillia muttered as she slowly sat up. Her long hair slid down and the jacket she had over herself fell onto her lap.
“Yawn… that was a good night’s sleep. Yep.” She mumbled, rubbing her eyes—
“Good morning. Did you sleep well?” Asked the man in the kitchen.
“Yes. Good morning.” Lillia replied, turning to the kitchen. “…Huh?”
About 5 meters away stood a man. He was about sixty years old, and was tall and fit. He had short, thin black hair with patches of white, and had a genial smile on his face. He was wearing white clothes reminiscent of a doctor’s coat.
Still sleepy, Lillia thought for a moment.
“Excuse me, but who are you?” She finally wondered, confused.
“Me? I’m the owner of this house, Miss.” The man replied.
“Oh, I see. I see.” Lillia nodded. Then,
“Huh? Oh! Ah! Er—”
Finally realizing what was happening, Lillia stammered incoherently.
“Please, not to worry. Calm down. There’s nothing to panic about.” The man said. Only after sighing and taking a couple of deep breaths did Lillia return to normal.
“We’re sorry for intruding! We lost our way in the woods, and—”
“Yes, I suspected as much.” The man replied, sitting in a chair. “So please don’t worry. If you’re still tired, feel free to get some more sleep.”
That reminded Lillia. She quickly looked around, and found what she was looking for on the left side of the bed. He was sleeping peacefully in the same position as last night, leaning against the bed with his head bowed even as Lillia and the man spoke.
“He seems to be tired—let’s not wake him. Let him sleep a little longer.” Said the man. But Lillia ignored him and, with her left foot, kicked Treize in the head.
With a humorous gasp, Treize woke up to Lillia’s kick for the second morning in a row.
“What were you thinking you were no help at all—”
Lillia raised her foot again, menacingly reprimanding him.
“Please, calm down. I think that’s enough morning exercise for now, don’t you think?”
“What’s going on here?”
For a moment after being rescued by the man, Treize was lost. He head only cleared after about ten seconds.
“Oh… I’m sorry we barged into your house, sir.” He said quickly.
“Please, it’s not a problem. As I said to your friend, I understand the gist of things. There aren’t any other houses or towns around here, after all.” The man replied courteously with a smile. “Why not wash up first? We can talk afterwards and introduce ourselves then. It would be a shame to send you off without knowing your names.”
Lillia and Treize did as the man suggested. They went to the bathroom outside and washed their faces with clean water from the stream, still dressed in their flight suits.
Treize wiped his face with a handkerchief as he spoke.
“It’s like he’s a monk or something.”
Treize glanced at the cabin several meters away.
“Anyway, it’s a good thing he’s such a nice person. Although a certain useless someone’s useless little contraption turned out to be useless.”
Treize ignored Lillia’s jab.
“I wonder if there’s a secret passage into the cabin or something. I guess that’s the owner for you.”
“This is no time to be impressed. If he was a bad guy, we’d be dead by now.”
“Then I’d blame you for the rest of my life for refusing to camp out.”
“After you die? That’d be something.”
They walked back to the cabin. It was a pleasant morning, with clear sunlight and the cool moist air. It was bright enough now that they could clearly see vegetable patches and flower beds, the vibrant green forest around them, and the great lake between the trees. Wisps of cotton-candy clouds floated lazily across the sky.
“What a beautiful place.” Lillia said, stopping partway and looking around in awe. Treize left her and went ahead into the cabin.
“Let me introduce myself first. I am Ein Morseau.”
Inside the cabin, Lillia, Treize, and the man sat around the small round table. Because there were only two chairs around it, they had to bring in a folding chair that had been leaning against the wall. On the table were three freshly-prepared cups of steaming-hot tea.
“My name is Lillia Schultz.”
“I’m Treize. Nice to meet you.”
The man named Morseau replied politely.
“Lillia and Treize. You both have wonderful names.”
“Er… Mr. Morseau?” Lillia said. “I’d like to apologize again. For using your house without permission.”
“Again, it’s perfectly fine. I keep the door unlocked precisely for situations like this—if anyone were to lose their way in the woods, I mean. Although I must admit that you two were the first to ever do so.”
“Thank you so much. You didn’t have to serve us tea.” Lillia replied apologetically.
“Not at all. While you’re here, why not join me for breakfast?”
“If you need any help with anything, please let us know.”
“Thank you. I will. But what do the two of you plan to do now? That’s the most important question, I think.” Said Morseau. As Lillia wondered what he meant, Treize answered.
“We’d like to return to Bren first; that’s where we left our things. And we’d like to get there as quickly as we can. We have some important business to take care of. Could you tell us how to get there? And if you know of any method of transportation, please tell us.”
“Of course. Now, it seems like your urgent business has something with you two getting lost. Am I correct? What in the world happened?”
Treize was quick to reply.
“I’m afraid we can’t say. I’m very sorry, Mr. Morseau.”
Lillia shot Treize an angry glare. Treize met her gaze. So neither of them noticed the glint of chilly sadness that flashed over Morseau’s face.
“I see. That’s unfortunate. I’m sure I could help you if you’d tell me.”
“I’m very sorry, Mr. Morseau.”
Lillia suddenly turned to Treize.
“Hey. Let’s talk for a second.”
With a firm grip on Treize’s shoulder, Lillia berated him furiously under her breath in Bezelese.
“I know we said we wouldn’t tell anyone, but maybe we should tell this person. He helped us out; it’s the least we could do.”
Naturally, Morseau could hear her voice just fine. He seemed a little surprised.
“I’m sticking by what I said yesterday. I don’t want to get anyone involved.” Treize replied quickly in Bezelese. Lillia glared.
“Please, you two. Don’t argue, now. Everyone has their secrets. I may not know what your business is, but let me try and help you nevertheless. Let’s think together.” Morseau said. Lillia obediently took her hand off Treize’s shoulder.
“I can imagine what must have happened, of course.” Said Morseau. “I suppose your vehicle must have broken down.”
Lillia and Treize replied.
“Then allow me to lend you my car.”
“What? Where is it?” Lillia asked. The cabin’s surroundings looked exactly as they did the previous day.
“If you follow the short path to the south, you’ll reach a narrow road between the trees. That’s as far as the car can come. I always park there and walk the rest of the way to the cabin. I’ll let you use my car.”
“Thank you. Then… where do we go with the car? Where are we? How long until we reach a town?” Lillia asked in one breath.
Morseau thought for a moment. Several seconds of silence passed before he opened his mouth.
“It might take me a while to explain. Shall we talk after breakfast?”
Lillia, Treize, and Morseau divided up duties to prepare breakfast.
Treize’s job was to chop firewood outside. Lillia’s job was to draw water. Morseau’s job was to prepare the ingredients.
When Lillia and Treize finished their work and returned to the cabin, Morseau was peeling potatoes. With a thin black knife over 20 centimeters long, he expertly peeled the potatoes and carved out the eyes.
“Let me help.” Said Lillia.
“I’m grateful for the offer, but I’m finished peeling now. I’ll be boiling them, along with the eggs and sausages I brought this morning. You can sit back now.”
Treize put firewood into the stove as Morseau instructed and lit it. Lillia had nothing to do but wait.
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Please, it’s quite all right. This is my specialty.”
Placing the thin potato slices into the pot, Morseau waited for it to boil before adding sausages and salt and pepper. Finally, he lowered the heat, and cracked the eggs into a bowl before beating them and pouring the bowl into the pot. Then, he shut the lid and waited.
Soon their meal was ready. The food was served in soup plates and placed on the table. Soft potatoes and sausages filled with herbs. And one serving of poached egg per person.
The food was steaming. Lillia swallowed.
After breakfast, they had tea again.
“Well now… where should I begin?” Morseau said, speaking first.
They were all sitting around the table. Treize and Lillia had taken off their flight suits and were dressed in the same clothes as the previous day.
“I suppose I should begin by telling you where we are.”
Lillia and Treize nodded. Morseau continued.
“This house is my refuge. I come here when I want to take some time to think quietly by myself. I spend about half the year in this cabin.”
“What do you do for a living, Mr. Morseau? …Oh, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.” Lillia said.
“I don’t mind. I help people in this country—or so I’d like to believe.”
“You help people?”
“Yes. Do you know how poor this country is? That there are many orphans?”
Lillia and Treize solemnly nodded.
“I am planting hopes for the future in those unfortunate children. I am working alongside people, believing that our work will instill hope in the orphans.”
“By any chance… do you run a facility that helps poor children find work in the Capital District?” Treize asked. Morseau seemed a little surprised.
“I’m surprised you know.”
“Are you the ‘Master’, then? The person everyone loves and respects?” Asked Lillia. Morseau put on an embarrassed smile.
“That is what people call me sometimes. But please, call me Morseau. It’s a little less awkward for me that way.”
Lillia and Treize exchanged glances. Lillia leaned forward.
“Mr. Morseau, wasn’t a little boy sent there yesterday? We met him in Lartika…”
Morseau was surprised yet again.
“Y-yes. His name was… Carlo, correct?”
“We don’t know his name, but…”
“Hm. If I recall, he was wearing a dirty brown shirt and long black pants. He seemed to be about ten, but he said that he was twelve years old.”
“Yes, that’s him!”
“A police officer brought him to us late last evening. He was very unhappy at first, but he opened up to us as he ate dinner. He’s a good, honest boy at heart.”
“Thank goodness. And he even told you his name.”
“Yes. Although he didn’t seem to want to at first.”
“Thank goodness.” Lillia repeated, her eyes narrowing as she took another sip of tea.
“Then let me continue. We are very deep in the woods here. We’re about 80 kilometers directly from Lartika and Illues—ah, Illues is a village on the lake southwest of Lartika.” Said Morseau.
“No way… 80 kilometers?” Treize muttered, astonished. Morseau chuckled.
“Hah hah hah. It’s a bit of a long walk. And incidentally, the nearest village to the west is about 40 kilometers away. They have bus services there. And Healer Village, where the facility is, is about 15 kilometers further.”
“Man… I can’t believe it.”
“This is what Tolcasia is like.”
“Then…” Said Lillia. “What should we do?”
“As I said earlier, I will lend you my car. Take it to the village. Oh, can you drive a gasoline car?”
Lillia shook her head and turned to Treize. He was in the middle of sipping his tea, but he met her gaze and replied, “I don’t have a license, though.”
“That’s all right. You won’t run into anyone on the way. Please park the car at the village hall and ask the villagers to take you to Healer Village. I’ll write a letter asking them to take you. I’ll also ask them to bring my car back here.”
“Thank you, Mr. Morseau. You’re a lifesaver.”
“Thank you. Is there another way to get to Lartika from the village? A bus, by any chance?” Asked Treize.
“Well, yes. But you’ll need to make transfers, and it takes an entire day. There are only two buses per day.”
“That’s a long time.”
Morseau gave them an amused look, like a parent hiding a birthday gift from a child.
“You two are lucky. So very lucky. There’s another way to get to Lartika or Bren—very quickly, to boot.”
Lillia and Treize waited for him to continue. Morseau chuckled, embarrassed.
“There is an aeroplane heading from Healer Village to Lartika.”
“This isn’t part of a regular service, is it?”
Lillia and Treize asked. Morseau nodded firmly.
“This is practically a miracle. The flight’s only operating today. You see, we’re having a charity tour flight for the children at the facility—children who would never otherwise have the chance to fly. Anonymous donors from the Capital District have provided us with funding to show their love for Tolcasia. They want to give these underprivileged children a chance to see nature from high up in the air.”
“Wow… that’s so kind of them.”
“Aren’t you going to board as well, Mr. Morseau?”
Said Lilia and Treize, respectively.
“Naturally, I was offered several times. But if I went aboard, that means one fewer child will get to enjoy the flight. So I declined. I’m actually running away here today because I thought it might be difficult to stay on the ground, what with all the villagers telling me to go.” Morseau replied.
“So is it really all right for us to board?”
“I’m sure it will be. I don’t know much about aeroplanes, but they supposedly rented one that can fit many people. It’s going to be departing from the lake.”
“So it must be a large seaplane.” Treize said.
“Ah, that’s the word!” Morseau exclaimed.
“But if there’s no room…”
“I was told that the plane would take on more passengers at the harbor in Illues. So some seats will be empty until then. The departure time will be after lunch—you’ll have plenty of time to get there.”
“I see… so we can get back to Bren today if we take the plane.”
“There are many ships that go between Illues and Bren, so I’m quite certain you’ll get there.”
“But could we afford a seaplane ride?” Lillia wondered anxiously.
“Not to worry. Like I said, this is a charity flight. I’ll write a letter saying that you two are volunteers. I would be lying, but this is an emergency, yes? I’m sure things will be all right so long as you explain later.”
“Not to worry. Enjoy the flight alongside the children. And get your business settled when you reach Bren. I will pray for your success from here until then.”
Outside the cabin. Lillia, Treize, and Morseau were standing at the door. The morning sun rose and shone on them all.
Treize was holding a paper bag from Morseau that contained the flight suits and jackets he and Lillia had been wearing. Lillia had bottles of water—newly re-filled—slung over her back.
“Take care, then. …Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve ever seen people off from this house. It’s strange, but also quite fun.”
“Thank you for everything, Mr. Morseau.” Lillia said.
Morseau smiled and spread his arms. Lillia walked into his embrace. He hugged her gently.
“Be careful. And Treize? Please drive safely.”
“Of course. Thank you, Mr. Morseau. We’ll do exactly as you said once we reach the village.”
“We’ll come and thank you again once everything settles down.” Said Lillia.
“Please. Let’s meet at the facility next time.” Morseau said, and waved. Treize coaxed Lillia forward. Lillia bowed one last time at Morseau. Treize did the same.
“Take heart. I know the two of you will be just fine.” Morseau finally said.
With the cabin behind them, Lillia and Treize set off for the village. Just before they stepped into the woods, they turned and waved. Morseau waved back.
* * *
There was a narrow road in the forest, just wide enough for a car to pass though.
The road stretched straight from east to west; the dirt underneath was trodden solid, and green weeds poked out of the earth at points.
A slightly old and small 2-seater car with a cover over it was traveling west on that road.
Treize sat in the driver’s seat on the left, holding the thin steering wheel. Lillia sat next to him.
Whenever they hit a muddy stretch of the road, the car shook. Treize changed gears when necessary and slowed down, carefully driving as fast as he could.
They had said nothing since they stepped into the car, silently watching the scenery.
About 20 kilometers later,
“We’re halfway there.” Treize muttered. “It’s definitely faster than walking.” He said, gauging Lillia’s reaction. But she said nothing.
“You’re really quiet today, Lillia. You can go to sleep if you’d like.”
“I’m not sleepy.” Lillia finally said, looking straight ahead.
“Of course, Milady.”
“We met people in this country.” She said suddenly and firmly. Treize was surprised.
“Huh? …Right. And?”
“The captain, the boy, and Mr. Mateo. They were all such nice, kind people.”
“But that pilot was the worst of the worst. And his friends, too. Then we met Mr. Morseau, who turned out to be the complete opposite.”
“Then who are we going to meet next? Good people? Or bad?” Lillia wondered, looking Treize in the eye.
“Who knows?” He replied immediately.
<This is Treefrog 1. Come in, Thunderstorm. This is an emergency.>
<This is Thunderstorm. Treefrog 1, respond.>
<The car is here. It’s ‘his’ car. Currently heading for the village. But ‘he’ is not in the car. I repeat. ‘He’ is not in the car.>
<Roger that. Describe the occupant.>
<Now passing—passed. Two occupants, both in their mid-to-late teens. A boy and a girl. They are not on the list. ‘He’ does not seem to be in the car. Shall I have Treefrog 2 stop the car?>
<Not unless ‘he’ is there. Treefrog 2, respond.>
<This is Treefrog 2. Reception clear. Thunderstorm, respond.>
<So you were listening. The car is moving. Take photographs of the car, just in case. I repeat. Take photographs.>
“Right… we don’t know.” Lillia said, looking forward again.
At that moment, their faces were caught on film.
A man dressed in camouflage gear was in the woods. He had held up a camera equipped with a rifle-like stock and a long telephoto lens and quickly pressed the shutter.
Next to the man with the camera was another man, who was also dressed in camouflage gear and aiming a small submachine gun directly at the car. Behind him was yet another man, holding a gun in the opposite direction as they stood nigh-invisible in the woods. The men’s submachine guns were the very same model that Treize had refused on the train.
“They’re gone. Photographs?”
“They’re good. It was definitely a boy and a girl.”
“Yes. I saw. But who are they? No one should have gone to that cabin after ‘him’.”
“They don’t look like Tolcasians to me, sir.”
“I agree. Those two just might be with the ‘Monstrous One’.”