Here's the final update for the first arc of Lillia and Treize.
Chapter 9: And so the two…
The setting sun shone over a dense forest, where a single road stretched on in a straight line.
A bus was parked on the side of the road. Inside were several people dressed for a fishing trip.
Across the road was a black fighter craft. It stood quietly there, with the landing gear underneath and the nose pointed upwards.
One of the men on the bus went over to the blond woman leaning against the plane, who wore a flight suit. The man was wearing glasses.
Major Travas and Allison.
“Thanks for your hard work.”
“Yeah. It was rough.”
Beneath his glasses, Major Travas’s eyes were narrowed.
“Thank you, Allison. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
“There’s no need to thank me.” Allison grinned.
Major Travas looked up at the fighter plane, its propellers still as it stood like a sculpture.
“So this is Roxche’s latest fighter craft.”
“Cool, isn’t it? She’s really fast. Although Sou Be-Il’s tech is still ahead of ours.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“I pulled so many crazy maneuvers that I ran out of fuel partway back. An aeroplane packed with people from the base is going to get here soon, so I’m going to take a break here until then. I’ll watch the moon on the way back.”
“All right, then. I have to go now; we still have work to do.”
“Looks like you do.”
A brown-haired woman came up behind Major Travas. It was Axe.
“Major. We should be leaving now.”
Major Travas glanced at her.
“Ah, let me introduce you, Axe. This is Captain Allison Schultz of the Roxche Air Force. She’s helped us out before and knows about us. Commit this part to memory. You are free to introduce yourself by your real name.”
“Good afternoon.” Allison smiled, speaking in Bezelese. Axe seemed taken aback, but replied in Roxchean.
“It’s an honor to meet you. Gratz Axentine.”
It was a typical military greeting, minus the salute. Allison switched to Roxchean.
“It’s nice to meet you, Axentine.”
Though Allison was constantly smiling, Axe remained cool and businesslike.
“If you would be quick, Major.”
“Understood. Inform the others that I will be there shortly. Begin preparations.”
Allison watched Axe walk back to the bus.
Major Travas nodded.
“Yes. A student of the Aikashia school. An excellent one.”
“Huh. She sure is pretty.” Allison mumbled, and looked Major Travas in the eye. “The question is, is she pretty enough for a certain someone to be cheating on his girlfriend for?”
“What? No, no. I wouldn’t.” Major Travas replied, flustered. Allison narrowed her eyes.
“Of course not. I mean, I wouldn’t want to lay a one-man siege on the embassy with this baby here.” She threatened, tapping the fuselage. It rang loudly.
“Scary.” Major Travas chuckled. “Anyway, we have to be going. The real work’s just ahead for us—or the cleanup, if you look at it another way.”
“All right. Let’s have dinner sometime. You owe me for today.”
“Sure. I’ll see you later.” Major Travas said, and turned back to the bus.
Allison suddenly stopped him.
Major Travas stopped, but did not turn. Allison stared with her eyes narrowed and asked quietly,
“Is ‘Gratz’ a common family name in Sou Be-Il?”
“No.” Major Travas replied immediately. Allison shrugged.
“I knew it.”
The conversation came to an end.
Allison watched as Travas departed.
* * *
Twilight was coming to the little cabin in the forest.
The sky was losing its blue tint, and a golden light was cast on the clouds high in the air.
Inside the cabin sat Morseau, absorbed in a book. The interior quickly grew dark.
Morseau put a bookmark on his page, put the book on the table, and stood.
He picked up the kettle in the kitchen and poured lukewarm water into a cup. He slowly drank it on the spot.
Putting the cup down, he reached behind a piece of plywood hanging from the wall. Then he slowly reached for the thin black knife hidden there. But mere centimeters from the knife—
Four men kicked down the door and leapt inside. They were not only dressed in camouflage gear, their faces were covered in paint and their hats were covered with leaves. As soon as they were inside, the men scattered to the corners of the house and held their small machine guns at Morseau.
“Move, and we’ll shoot.” One of the men said tersely from behind Morseau. Morseau froze.
One of the men grabbed him by the collar and forced him down to the floor. Then he pulled back Morseau’s arms and tied them together with string from his pocket.
“Hah. Such violent visitors. I don’t think this is any mood for a tea party. You’re nothing like the guests I greeted earlier.” Morseau said calmly as he lay on the floor.
“You’re coming with us.” One of the men commanded.
The men in camo gear put a cloth bag over Morseau’s head and took him into custody. They left the cabin and pushed the old man into the black van parked outside. It was the very same vehicle that had picked up the ‘reporters’ outside Healer Village.
The van tumbled down the road with the five men inside. Away from the village, eastward where there was nothing but trees.
The men said nothing. Nor did Morseau. He sat silently between the intruders, cramped in his seat with his hands tied behind his back.
The forest seemed for all the world like a pair of black walls lining the road. The sky alone retained a hint of light. The van continued quickly in the darkness. Each time they hit a puddle in the way, the driver expertly operated the wheel as mud splashed outside.
And just as the man in the passenger seat glanced at his watch,
The driver flinched and hit the brakes.
There was someone ahead, crossing the middle of the road. He was a well-built man in his forties, wearing a hat and dressed for a fishing trip. Slung over his shoulder was a fishing bag and in his left hand was a bucket.
There was no shock or fear in his eyes as he looked at the car. The only thing visible under his hat was a blank expression. Suddenly, the bucket fell from his hand.
The empty bucket hit the road, then bounced up. And before it hit the ground again, the fisherman pulled his bag in front of him and took out its contents.
A shotgun emerged. The man held it at the van as it barreled toward him. And he pulled the trigger.
The front-left tire burst. The van, already slowing, decelerated almost instantly as its bumper ground against the mud. It soon came to a stop on the left side of the road as though tripping forward.
The man with the shotgun pulled the pump handle to expel the empty shell, then loaded the next one and took aim at the van again. His movements were calculating and businesslike, and his face showed no sign of emotion.
“What’s going on?!”
The driver and the man in the passenger seat yelled.
The two men in the back seat took up their submachine guns and opened the doors. Then they quickly stepped outside and took aim at the man on the road, using the doors as shields. But then—
“Don’t even bother.”
The men found themselves being held at gunpoint from behind. Two men dressed in fishing gear had emerged from the woods, and were holding large handguns to their heads.
The two men in camo gear seethed as they put down their submachine guns, glaring at the muzzles pointed at their heads. The driver and the man next to him put their feet on the hood to indicate surrender.
The two fishermen who emerged from the woods forced the men in camo gear to the ground. They made sure to restrain their hands backwards and cross their legs so it would be difficult for the men to stand. Then, two more men emerged with shotguns in hand and expertly tied up the four fallen men.
In less than ten seconds, the van had been taken and four men in camo gear were left on the ground.
“Finished.” Said a fisherman holding a shotgun. He was speaking in Roxchean. Taking aim with his right hand, he took out slugs from his vest pocket and loaded them with his left.
A young woman carrying a mid-sized handgun emerged from the brush and approached the van. She checked the back seat through the wide-open doors and carefully removed the bag from over the old man’s head. Morseau calmly looked at the woman.
“Well, this is a surprise. What is going on here, Miss?”
The woman’s reply was emotionless.
“We’re here to rescue you. If you would step outside.”
She was speaking Bezelese.
Morseau’s expression shifted. As his eyes widened in shock, the woman pulled him out.
One of the men kissing the mud growled resentfully.
“My apologies.” Said a voice, emerging from the woods. It was Major Travas. Holding a handgun, he squatted next to the men in camo gear. “We’ll be taking him now.”
“You’re… ‘Aristocrat’, aren’t you?” The man spat.
Major Travas did not reply.
“Don’t play dumb. Why are you turning against us now?”
The man demanded, raising his head. He found a shotgun muzzle pointed at his face. But Major Travas waved the gun aside.
“We’re not turning against you. This was our plan from the very beginning. Thank you for your efforts, ‘Treefrogs’. Or I suppose I should call you the Roxche Special Forces. Leave the rest to us.”
Leaving the man dumbstruck, Major Travas went over to Morseau. The woman had untied him and was massaging his numb wrists.
“It looks like you had a rough time.” Said Major Travas with a smile. He was speaking Bezelese.
“Who in the world…?” Morseau asked in Roxchean. Major Travas replied in Roxchean as well.
“Isn’t it nostalgic, speaking in your mother tongue again? Although I suppose you’ll be hearing much more of it soon.”
So shocked was Morseau that he could not continue.
Major Travas nodded firmly.
“Yes. We will be sending you back to Sou Be-Il—our homeland. That is why we are here. You can rest easy with us.”
Morseau closed his eyes. A tear ran down his cheek.
The sun set completely and the sky turned orange, then indigo.
In the woods, where darkness fell before moonrise, sat a van driven into the dirt with one of its tires punctured. Next to it lay four men in camo gear, their arms and legs all bound.
There was no one else around. They could not hear any vehicles. Only the cries of the birds in the trees seemed to resound through the forest.
“Mountain fowl, do you think?” Asked one of the men, still lying face-down on the ground.
“You’re actually enjoying this, aren’t you?” Replied another. The men burst into laughter.
“Can we stop kissing the dirt now?”
“Yes. To your feet.”
The men flipped themselves around to face the sky. Then, with their hands still tied behind their backs, they began to untie the ropes on the hands of the men next to them.
Soon, the four men rose to their feet and picked up their submachine guns. The magazines were empty. The group that restrained them had taken all the rounds.
“Looks like we’ll be getting an earful from the old man at the armory again.”
“Stop complaining. This is part of the mission budget.”
The men chattered, relaxed as could be, and gathered up the ropes and even the torn pieces of the exploded tire.
The man who went over to the front of the van examined the front-left wheel, which with the exception of the tire was completely unscathed.
“He’s a great shot, that one. Taking out just the tire with one round? Even I can’t do that.”
“If things hadn’t changed, we’d be facing monsters like that on the battlefield.”
“Scary. But the lady was a looker.”
“Can’t believe you had the guts to check her out. I was busy being scared that they’d actually shoot.”
“Ask her out next time if you see her at the Capital District, Master Sergeant.”
“No thank you, sir. A woman that scary just might castrate me if I got on her nerves.”
The men had a hearty laugh over the master sergeant’s comment. Then,
“Well, Treefrogs, the mission is over. With just one popped tire and a few lost magazines, thank the heavens. We’ll switch out and withdraw.”
Soon, the men disappeared and left nothing behind.
* * *
It was at the end of that summer evening that the rescue seaplane carrying Lillia and Treize landed near Bren. The sun had already set, and the sky over the lake was glowing a brilliant orange.
Lillia and Treize had both changed into tracksuits given them by the soldiers on the plane. The words ‘Air Force’ were embroidered over the chest. They wore flat sandals on their feet. Their wet clothes were inside a waterproof bag labelled ‘corpse bag’ in tiny letters, carried by Treize.
A medical officer had given Treize a checkup on the plane. Lillia breathed a sigh of relief when Treize was deemed unhurt.
Then, they had explained everything that had happened since they boarded Mateo’s tour plane. Afterwards the first lieutenant explained several things to them.
That the children were on their way back to the facility, and the villagers were informed that the seaplane had run aground due to pilot error. That the Tolcasian pilots who took part in the plot, excepting the dead captain and including the one who had shot Mateo, had been arrested. That a trustworthy team was already investigating the case for the mastermind. That the employees of the Lartika tour plane company were informed that their two customers were safe.
“We won’t be bothering you any more after today. Because the man who shot Mr. Mateo is a soldier, he will be courtmartialed behind closed doors. Once we have a verdict, we will give you a brief summary of everything we are permitted to reveal.”
Treize listened skeptically. He knew that they would be permitted to reveal nothing, which meant that they would not be giving any reports—and even if they did, the report would be a completely fictional one.
“Thank you, First Lieutenant. We’re counting on you.”
But when Lillia replied, Treize looked at her and said nothing.
The town of Bren was filled with lights from streetlamps and houses. Lillia and Treize disembarked at a pier in the harbor.
The first lieutenant took them by car into town. A short drive later, they arrived at a hotel. It was not as luxurious as the one in Lartika, but it was also quite large and looked expensive.
“We’ve contacted the hotel in Lartika ahead of time and brought your belongings here. Along with Miss Lillia’s souvenirs.” The first lieutenant explained.
He had led them, not through the front doors, but the back. They left their wet clothes with the laundromat service and took the elevator.
Lillia and Treize were given two large single rooms.
“I’m not the one who prepared your rooms. I’m sure you both must have a lot on your minds, but we’d like for you to rest here for tonight. And there’s no need to worry about the hotel expenses, including the meals. Take your time and relax. And starting tomorrow, please continue your trip as if nothing happened.” the first lieutenant said, and disappeared into the elevator.
“Is he making fun of us?” Treize grumbled.
Afterwards, Lillia and Treize went to their own rooms and spent a long time washing out the mud and sand in the shower.
About an hour later, Treize called Lillia’s room and asked if she wanted to get dinner. Lillia stepped out in the same clothes as the first day. Treize was in his usual outfit. They headed for the restaurant on the top floor together.
The world outside was tinted a bluish white under the moon, and candles lit the restaurant interior. Completely ignoring the other patrons in their fancy clothes, Lillia and Treize ordered one expensive dish after another and wolfed them down.
“If we’re not paying for ourselves, might as well go all-out.”
“Yeah. I’m starving.”
They cleaned off their plates with very few words between them, and by the time they finished several different desserts, there were no other patrons in the restaurant.
Lillia picked up her teacup.
“That was great. I’m really sleepy now. We went through so much today…”
“Agreed. Today and yesterday. We only set off three days ago, but this trip is turning out to be an exhausting one.”
“Let’s get some sleep. We’ll think about tomorrow tomorrow.”
“Anyway, you really helped out a lot today, Treize. Thank you.”
“Not at all. I just wish I didn’t end up looking so bad at the end there…” Treize trailed off. Lillia gave him an encouraging look.
“Who cares? I mean, I got the chance to pay you back.”
“All right.” Treize nodded and mumbled. Then, “Come to think of it, you were supposed to give me that prize. Don’t tell me you forgot.”
Lillia stared. Treize was smiling like a kid in a candy store.
“Not anymore.” She replied tersely.
“Hmph. …Wait, what do you mean, ‘anymore’?”
“That’s not important.”
Finishing her tea, Lillia cupped her hand over her mouth as she yawned loudly.
“Yeah. I think I’ll sleep like a rock tonight.”
“Let’s get going. I’ll wake you up in time for breakfast tomorrow?”
“Yes please. We’ll stuff ourselves tomorrow, too.”
Finally, they stood. Treize signed the bill that the waiter brought.
Once they stepped onto the elevator, Lillia asked,
“How much was it?”
“You’re better off not knowing.”
They disembarked, walked down the hall, and stopped in front of Lillia’s room.
“See you tomorrow, then. You don’t want to switch rooms this time?”
“I don’t have the energy. And we’re not in Lartika anyway, so I don’t really care about the view.”
“All right.” Treize replied, pointing at his own room. “I’ll be in there.”
“Too bad we’re not using the same suite this time. Good night.” Lillia said, disappearing into her room.
“Good night.” Treize replied with a wry smile, taking her comment as sarcasm.
The doors closed, and the hall was deserted.
“What the heck did I just say…?”
Lillia leaned against her door, blushing furiously, and writhed in embarrassment as she punched herself in the head.
“Stupid! Idiot! Imbecile!”
* * *
“It’s finally over…”
Inside his room, Treize placed his handgun on the table.
The gun had been submerged, and was covered in sand. He dismantled it and cleaned out the parts, oiled it, then reassembled it. Then he loaded the extra magazine and ammunition he had locked in his luggage.
“I should get to bed…”
When he turned off the table lamp, the room instantly dimmed. Only pale blue moonlight seeped in between the curtains.
But the moment Treize stood, the phone at the end of the table began to ring.
Flinching, Treize reflexively picked up the receiver.
And, looking around, he slowly brought it to his ear.
<Hello? Who is this?>
From the phone came a man’s voice.
<Good evening, owner of the hawk pendant.>
<…You? …Why?> Treize asked, having an idea about the voice. His voice instantly fell to a whisper, though no one could have possibly overheard him anyway.
<You see—> The man began.
<Oh! I get it!> Treize cut him off. <You’re part of this—you’re also part of this, aren’t you?>
<The moon is beautiful tonight.> The man replied. <Would you like to join me for a drive?>
Treize put on a leather jacket over his T-shirt and stuffed his wallet and his handgun into his pockets.
Then he put on his boots and left his room.
Treize glanced at Lillia’s room as he stepped onto the elevator.
Crossing the first floor lobby, he left through the rotating doors. A car was parked outside in the moonlight.
It was a black sedan, the type commonly used as taxis. In the driver’s seat on the left side was a bespectacled man dressed for a fishing trip.
“Good evening.” The man said, opening the window.
Treize accepted the man’s offer and sat in the passenger seat next to him. Then, checking that no one else was in the car, he greeted the man.
“Let’s take a quick drive through the area.” Said the man in the driver’s seat, and started the car. They left the hotel roundabout and drove into the paved road lined with streetlights. The man drove carefully, keeping a steady pace and making no sudden turns.
“So no one could possibly overhear us in a moving car, is that it? Major Travas?”
“That’s the idea, Your Highness.”
They drove at a relaxed pace through the town, toward the harbor. Before the harbor was a single road leading north. To the left was the lake and to the right was an orchard lined with small trees. There were no other vehicles in sight.
Major Travas slowed down and switched to a lower gear. He continued to drive, but at a slower pace, down the road.
“We received word about your boarding the seaplane immediately after it took off. We could have stopped you if we’d known sooner. It’s a miracle you made it out alive. I’m very impressed.”
“It was a piece of cake.” Treize replied. Major Travas grinned.
“But in reality?”
“I thought we were goners. Really, I did.”
“Hah hah hah.” Major Travas chuckled, his eyes narrowing. But Treize frowned.
“To be honest, there’s still so much about the incident that confuses me, even though we were involved in it. And the first lieutenant from the Roxchean military outright told me not to poke my nose into this.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“But I think it’d chase away my sleep if you were to tell me, Major.”
“And why do you suppose I would tell you?” Asked Major Travas, sounding like a teacher. Treize replied immediately.
“Because if you are here, there is no way that you have no relation to this case. And if you had no intention of telling me the truth, you wouldn’t have called me out in the first place.”
“A simple answer.”
“Then will you tell me?”
“Is that an order from His Highness Prince Treize of Ikstova?” Asked Major Travas.
Treize furrowed his brow, but when he glimpsed Major Travas’s profiled face and the amused smile on it, he understood.
“Oh! Yes. This is an order from the prince.”
“That is quite troubling. I have no choice but to follow the prince’s orders. Now, the topic of our discussion being what it is, I ask your understanding if I happen to accidentally let a few national secrets slip.” Major Travas said, not looking troubled in the least.
“The ones behind this incident—in other words, the ones behind the plan to crash a plane full of orphans—were not the Tolcasian pilots.” Said Major Travas. “They were won over, or perhaps manipulated by the real mastermind.”
“Yes. I could see that much.”
“The one who attempted to turn the charity flight into a tragedy…”
Treize waited, holding his breath.
“…was the man who planned the charity flight.”
“What?” Treize gaped. Major Travas repeated himself.
“The man who planned the charity flight.”
“…Mr. Morseau, you mean?”
The major glanced at Treize with a nod.
“He planned this alone?” Treize asked immediately.
“Is the Roxchean intelligence department after him?”
“And are you and the Sou Be-Il intelligence department after him as well?”
“Is he—is Mr. Morseau… a Sou Be-Il spy?”
“The answer is ‘yes’.”
“Any other questions?”
“Why do you think?” Major Travas asked, rather than answer.
Treize stared at the dashboard for ten seconds, deep in thought. Then,
“I don’t know. …Mr. Morseau runs an orphanage in Tolcasia and has for a long time. The people of Tolcasia love him. I don’t think any of that was falsified or exaggerated. But why would a Sou Be-Il spy do such a thing? And why would he want to suddenly kill all the children?” Treize muttered, shaking his head again and again. And he looked at Major Travas.
“You ‘don’t know’, you say.” Replied the major. A smile rose to his face. “That is the answer. There is no way for you to know the truth at this point in time. For that, you would first need information on who Morseau is and what he has been doing over these years.”
“Please, tell me.” Treize asked immediately. There was a hint of sadness in Major Travas’s eyes as he glanced at him.
“I must warn you beforehand, Your Highness, that the truth will disgust you. You may even think it was best that you never asked. …Do you still want me to continue?”
“Then let me explain. First, about the man known as Ein Morseau. He was born about sixty years ago in a poor mining village in Sou Be-Il. Naturally, ‘Morseau’ is a pseudonym. Not long after he was born, his father was killed in a cave-in and his mother went missing. He grew up a poor orphan and had a difficult childhood. When he learned that Sou Be-Il was engaged in fierce battles in the Great War, he entered the Royal Army claiming to be older than he was. Though he never took part in battle, he grew into a great soldier with excellent achievements. Afterwards, he was selected to be part of the intelligence department and became one of their operatives. Any questions so far?” Major Travas said, his recitation civil and expert.
Treize replied that he had nothing to ask.
“Then let me continue. For some time he worked internally in Sou Be-Il. And about thirty years ago, an incredible plan was formulated and he was chosen to carry it out.”
“He had to sneak into Roxche to do something, right?”
“That’s correct, Your Highness. Has anyone ever told you about Allison’s father, Aikashia Cross?”
“Mother and Father told me about the events surrounding their betrothal oath. They also told me that, during the war, spies were dispatched to opposing nations for espionage and sabotage.”
“Indeed. Mr. Morseau was given one such mission. He illegally entered Roxche and got his hands on a fake citizenship.”
“Then… did he abandon his mission? According to the villagers, that’s about when he started the orphanage at Healer Village.” Treize noted. Major Travas shook his head.
“That was his mission. He would gather orphans and educate them in Tolcasia, even then a poor country. Then he would raise them to be workers in the Capital District.”
“…I don’t understand. How does that help Sou Be-Il during the war?”
“Morseau’s actions were in themselves a great help to Tolcasia and its people. Which is why the citizens called him ‘Master’ out of respect. But that was all a part of his plans.”
“I suppose he must have been using the orphanage as a cover for something sinister.”
“Which is?” Asked Treize. But Major Travas did not answer, instead changing the topic.
“In this world… there are people with interests that defy common sense and morality.”
“Well, wherever there are people, there are weirdos.” Treize replied, a little surprised at the change of subject.
“Legal interests, at least, end at worst with the person being ostracized by others. But what if the interest in question happens to be illegal? Then the person with the interest has two options. Give up on it because it is illegal, or do it in secret because it is illegal.”
“And if the person happens to be powerful—especially in the financial sense—they will often choose the latter. They use money to get what they want. …For example, living children.”
“What? You mean—” Treize’s face darkened in an instant.
“Yes. I did warn you that you would be disgusted, Your Highness.”
“Morseau sent the orphans to the Capital District. Many of them found work there and live on to this day. But many others are no longer of this world.”
“Indeed. Those children were sold to rich patrons of the Capital District and met cruel and terrible ends.”
“…Damn it…” Treize swore, clenching his fists. “‘A lot of kids forget the Master’s kindness and break off contact with the facility’, they said… so that was why…” He muttered and hung his head. Major Travas continued.
“That was Morseau’s true mission. He would gather children with nowhere to go and sell them to rich people in the Capital District. There are many kinds of rich people. Morseau’s clients in particular happened to be particularly powerful. Other than their sick interests, they were assets to their country and people. They worked for the sake of many and made many happy.”
Treize raised his head.
“So he was gathering blackmail material on them. That was his mission… I get it now.”
“Yes. A spy needs informants. Other spies would get in contact with these people of influence and threaten them with evidence. Naturally, these people would never have realized Morseau’s true identity, or the fact that they had been caught in a trap. We do not know how much information these people provided Morseau’s spies, but the intelligence seemed to have been quite beneficial to Sou Be-Il. At least, until the war was ended.”
“What happened eighteen years ago, then, when the armistice was signed?”
“The signing of the armistice did not mean immediate peace between East and West. The foundations of both nations’ defenses still remain the same. But the value of information has notably dropped. It would have been just as well for Morseau’s mission to end there.”
“Though the reasons remain unknown, he continued his mission. In other words, Morseau did not receive orders to stop. This is just a guess, but the military may have decided that he could still be useful in his position. However, not a single spy has contacted him in the past ten years.”
“Was he abandoned, then?”
“Perhaps.” Major Travas said, then stopped the car. Turning the car several times on the narrow, deserted road, he slowly drove back the way he came.
“I understand everything up to that point.” Said Treize. Major Travas continued.
“Let me explain today’s incident, then. Even I do not know why he planned this. Perhaps he became sick of his mission and decided to wash his hands of the child trafficking by killing the children from the facility. Perhaps he intended to leave, burning his farm behind him, so to speak.”
“And you’re telling me that people went along with his plan, not realizing the truth.”
“Yes. The young officers of Tolcasia, and the rich patrons of the Capital District who provided the money to rent the seaplane and bribe the crew—whether they were blackmailed or paid willingly to destroy evidence. Sou Be-Il and Roxche’s intelligence departments noticed the plan almost simultaneously.”
Treize nodded several times.
“So both sides moved to cover up the past. Sou Be-Il, to hide the fact that they gave such sickening orders to a spy, and Roxche, to hide the identities of the people who took part in those sick hobbies. You were working together to prevent a scandal from breaking out.”
“Correct. The Capital District Police had a vague idea about the child trafficking for quite some time. But they could not make any rash moves because the patrons happened to be people of influence. I can’t name any names, but even among the police department’s superiors—in other words, those in the judicial department—were regular patrons of Morseau’s business.”
“You will see such people retire in unusually quick succession very soon. Roxche is not sitting on its hands. There are people who scorn such disgusting acts. We must have faith in their abilities.”
“I understand that.”
Treize was silent for a time; then he spoke again.
“What will happen to the Tolcasian pilots who fell for his plan?”
“They will be courtmartialed—”
“With certainty.” Treize declared.
“Why do you say that?” Asked Major Travas.
“Because that’s the only way to silence them.” Treize replied immediately. “You didn’t stop the seaplane from taking off. You didn’t stop it, even though you knew all those children were going to die. You watched the plane take off. You were planning to arrest the Tolcasian pilots after the crash and reveal that they were the ones who had shot down the seaplane. At the same time, you would shut down the empty facility and inform the sick bastards in the Capital District that the ‘farm’ was gone. Once the public found out that the orphans were killed by soldiers from their own country, Tolcasia would indeed get attention. But that was just a side-effect for you. One that didn’t matter in the least.” He said quickly, without pausing. Major Travas kept his eyes forward as he continued to drive.
“You were going to let that happen, Major Travas. If we didn’t happen to be onboard.”
“When you found out that we boarded the plane as well, you quickly contacted Allison and sent her in a fighter craft to protect the seaplane.”
“I did. I had to prevent the crash. I quickly altered our plans so that the passengers would be rescued after landing and the plane would be sunk afterwards.”
“If we didn’t happen to be on board… you would have killed those children.” Treize repeated. Then, “But ultimately, you saved our lives and the children are safe.”
Quietly, he glared at Major Travas.
“So… thank you.”
They drove back the way they came.
To the right was the lake, the moon reflected on the surface. Beyond shone the tiny lights of Lartika.
Treize watched the scenery pass by and whispered,
“That man—Mr. Morseau—he knew.”
“What do you mean?” Major Travas turned. Treize looked him in the eye.
“That we—or at least one of us—knew how to fly an aeroplane.”
“There was no way to reach his house other than by aeroplane. He also must have noticed that we were wearing aviator jackets. There’s a good chance that he heard about what happened from the Tolcasian pilots before he came to his cabin.”
“I see. So he must have known.”
“And yet he had us board the seaplane. There were a lot of circumstances, but he still had us board a plane that was going to lose its crew and crash after running out of fuel. Until now, I’d thought he did that to erase evidence of Mr. Mateo’s death… but maybe… just maybe…”
“I can’t say I have an answer to that.”
“I’d like to ask him in person, if it were possible.” Treize muttered. Major Travas replied,
“He’s no longer here, I’m afraid.”
Treize turned his gaze to the bluish-white world outside.
“Come to think of it, you’re right. You must have smuggled him away to take him to Sou Be-Il. That’s why you—”
“No. No… that’s not it…”
Slowly, Treize turned. And, with his eyes locked on Major Travas who continued to drive, he voiced his suspicions.
“Before, you didn’t deny that Sou Be-Il might have abandoned Morseau. Then it doesn’t make sense for you to rescue him now. …You killed him, didn’t you, Major Travas? That was your mission—to silence him permanently.”
Eyes tinged with sadness, Major Travas looked at Treize.
“The person who brings his car back to his cabin will discover his body there. His death will make the news here either tomorrow or the day after. But it won’t even make a corner of the papers back in the Capital District.”
“Is your mission finished?”
Major Travas nodded. And, downcast, he repeated himself.
“I did warn you that you would be disgusted, Your Highness.”
The harbor and the town were near. Their drive was at an end.
For some time, they sat in silence. But as they left the harbor area, Major Travas finally spoke.
“I might be deemed unnecessary myself someday. And I hope that, when the time comes, as few people as possible despise the country for it.”
“You mean Lillia?” Asked Treize.
“Well, among others.” Major Travas smiled, dodging the question. He turned a corner and headed for the hotel.
“If it ever seems like you’re going to lose your job, contact our family.” Treize said. Major Travas looked a little surprised.
“Your parents once said the same thing to me. Word-for-word, in fact.”
“We will welcome you, no matter what position I may be in.”
“‘I’ll think about it’. That’s what I told them. And that is my answer this time as well.”
“Please think carefully.”
Major Travas slowed the car, approaching the hotel roundabout.
“Thank you, Major.”
“It was nothing, Your Highness.”
With that, Major Travas stopped the car at the entrance.
Treize said nothing as he opened the door and disembarked. And with a light wave of the hand, he stepped inside.
Major Travas started the car.
* * *
The next day. It was the fourth morning of Lillia and Treize’s trip.
They were sitting in the hotel restaurant. Lillia in a similar outfit to the previous day’s, and Treize in the same outfit as before. Between them was a long table.
Their expensive dishes filled with bacon, toast, eggs, and vegetables—a common but expertly-crafted breakfast—Lillia stabbed a tomato with her fork.
“Is that why you brought it along?”
“No, but…” Treize mumbled, shrinking back. “Going through all that stuff made me really think, you know? I mean, the timing worked out, so I thought I should get back home. I’ve actually been thinking about it since last night. I didn’t say anything because it’d be awful to suddenly leave you when I said I’d be your chaperone. But when you said you wanted to go back to the Capital District today… it just kind of fit.”
Lillia put the tomato in her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and continued to talk as though nothing had happened.
“…I see. You’re going in the opposite direction, so you shouldn’t have to come all the way back again. I can take a sleeper train alone, anyway. And I can catch a taxi so I don’t have to worry about carrying my stuff. I don’t really have any reason to stop you.”
“Sorry for being so selfish.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for. What’s gotten into you?”
“Thanks for everything, Lillia.”
“Hey… did you eat something funny? Not here, I mean somewhere else. You don’t sound like yourself.” Lillia noted, pointing her fork at Treize.
“Huh? Maybe I’m just tired.”
“Did you sleep well last night?”
“Hm? Er… no. I mean, yes.”
“Which is it?” Lillia demanded, cutting a piece of bacon with her fork and placing it into her mouth. “Anyway, we went though a lot of crazy things, but it wasn’t all bad.”
“Huh. you think so?” Treize asked, spreading butter on a piece of toast.
“Yeah. Like the Master. Mr. Morseau.”
Treize froze. Butter ran down the hot piece of toast and landed in the scrambled egg.
“I learned that there are good people wherever you go. I was happy to see Lartika in person, but I was even happier to meet Mr. Morseau. I hope he’ll be able to give opportunities to more kids like Carlo. It really was an awesome coincidence, running into him. It was the best part of this trip. Don’t you think so?”
Treize’s eyes caught Lillia’s smile. After a moment of silence, he finally opened his mouth.
“Yeah… I guess you could see it that way.”
“Hey, are you really okay?”
“Y-yeah. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” Lillia asked, staring into Treize’s rigid face.
He averted his gaze and placed his toast on the plate, picking up a glass of orange juice.
“Never mind. When’s the next time I can see you?”
Treize’s hand stopped. He put down the glass, which he was trying to drain in one go.
As Lillia waited for an answer, looking no different from usual, Treize stammered.
“…Er, well… I don’t really know yet, but… sometime…”
“Oh, yeah! You should come over to Iks sometime, Lillia. You’re always welcome.”
“Later. I’ll go with Mom when winter break starts, okay?”
“You’re both welcome! I hope I can invite you to my place…”
“That’s a good idea. I’ll crash at your house next time, then.”
“Great. I promise.”
“It’s a promise.”
Lillia raised her glass of grapefruit juice. Treize also raised his glass, placing his left hand over his chest.
Soon, there was a clink over the breadbasket.
* * *
“Oh, Miss! It looks like we’re on the same train again.”
The woman who entered the cabin spoke to Lillia, who sat alone as she watched the scenery pass by outside. The train had left Bren, and was moving across a field under the blue sky.
Lillia searched through her memories, then replied.
“Oh! We shared a cabin on the way, didn’t we?”
The woman nodded.
“That’s right. Are you going back alone?”
“Hoh hoh. On your way back alone, I see?”
Lillia answered the woman and her husband, who followed her in.
“Yes. I’m going back to the Capital District.”
The couple sat side-by-side across from Lillia. The conductor came in to check their tickets and left.
“What about your companion, Miss?” Asked the woman.
“He said he had something to do, so he went back home. He’s not actually from the Capital District.”
The couple seemed a little surprised.
“Oh… I see. I was afraid you rejected him, Miss.” Said the man. Lillia chuckled.
“Hah hah. It’s not like that.”
“Speaking of which, Miss. Is he your type?” The man asked.
“Oh, Honey. What kind of question are you asking?” The woman scolded him, but Lillia didn’t mind.
“My type? I don’t really know. But he can be dependable.”
The couple replied in unison.
“To be honest, there was a lot about him I didn’t like until recently.”
“But I realized that I was just jealous of him. Because he could also do the things I could do. Then it turned out that even he had stuff he wasn’t good at… It was kind of cute. I’m glad I realized all this. I’m reflecting on myself for resenting him for such a petty reason.”
“I don’t think I’m a cute person at all. Heh heh… I should try and change.”
Watching Lillia smile brightly, the couple exchanged glances.
* * *
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,
“I’m back. …Then again, nobody’s here. Oh well. I guess I’ll spend the summer relaxing.” Lillia Schultz mumbled to herself.
It was early summer, in the middle of the day.
At the same time.
Treize was wearing a leather jacket, in a village bookstore by the street.
He had parked his motorcycle and stepped inside. He turned to the owner in the aisle.
“Do you have any swimming manuals in stock? Something good enough so anyone could learn.”
-And so the Two Left on a Trip(Part 2): End-