Chapter 4: Hilda and Lillia
In the luxurious cabin in the VIP car were the blond woman, Treize, and a newcomer—Lillia.
The blond woman sat by the window, facing forward like before. Lillia sat across from her. Treize sat beside Lillia, as far as he possibly could.
On the folding table between them was a teapot and three cups.
Major Travas and Ann checked the tea for poison and left the room. Yzma alone remained, standing straight before the door with his hands behind his back. His eyes were pointed upwards, but he was focusing his vision below, where the three passengers were.
“Why don’t we have some tea before it gets cold?” The blond woman said in Roxchean.
“Sure. Here, let me—”
“It’s all right. Allow me.”
Lillia reached over to pour the tea, but the woman stopped her and did it herself. She moved with grace, not faltering in spite of the shaking of the car. Lillia was speechless.
Once she was finished, the woman put down the teapot without a sound.
“Thank you very much.” Lillia bowed lightly. She waited for the woman to pick up her cup, then took her own.
They brought the cups to their mouths in unison.
They gave their opinions simultaneously, and exchanged smiles.
After they put down their cups,
“It’s nice to meet you. My name’s Lillia—Lillianne Schultz.” Lillia introduced herself first.
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lillia. I am Hilda. I’m from the Kingdom of Iltoa in the West.”
The blond woman introduced herself by a fake name and background that had been invented for her in advance, just in case.
“You have a wonderful name, Lillianne. Did you know? That name once belonged to a queen who ruled my homeland of Iltoa. She was strong, beautiful, and a beloved ruler. It suits you.”
The girls were completely at ease, but Treize was far from relaxed. He had not taken even a single sip of his tea, which was still in his hand. Yzma watched, masking his annoyance behind a blank facade.
“Treize.” Hilda turned with a smile.
“Oh! Yes?” Treize replied, his tea sloshing onto his hand. He tried to ignore the pain and spoke.
“Ahem. Let me introduce you. I’ll explain. Lillia here is my childhood friend. My parents and hers are old friends. Lillia lives in the Capital District, but she’s visited Ikstova many times over breaks. Oh, and Lillia’s mother is a soldier, but she knows the leader—Major Travas—through work. Coincidentally, I’ve met the major before, as well. What a coincidence, running into Lillia here.”
Treize’s explanation was quite haphazard. He even ended up using the word ‘coincidence’ twice.
“Oh my. I see. So you know that Treize is heir to the inn in northern Ikstova, Lillia?”
“She does! She knows very well.” Treize said firmly. Hilda had asked the question to confirm that Lillia did not know Treize’s true identity, but Lillia did not know that.
“Treize and I have been friends for years. We’re pretty close. We used to play together all the time in Iks.” Said Lillia.
“I suppose I should introduce my family as well.” Hilda said. “My father is a gold merchant in Iltoa. Although I’m sad to say that I cannot divulge any more details.”
“Er… is this supposed to be a secret—” Lillia began, worried, but Hilda cut her off.
“It’s all right. I visited Iks to examine and bring back gold jewelry from Iks in my father’s stead. I plan to pass through Lor and return to Iltoa by ship.”
“Oh. So that’s why there’s so much security here.”
“Yes. My father went to great lengths to ask Major Travas for help through an acquaintance. He couldn’t leave my security in the hands of anyone less.”
“So that’s why you have people from the embassy protecting you.”
“Yes. My father can be quite protective. After that, Major Travas introduced Treize to me. He’s an excellent guide, and he’s even around my own age, so I asked him to come with me to Lor. I’m very grateful for his company.”
“I see. I understand now.” Lillia said apologetically. “But… and I know it’s a little late to be saying this, but is it really all right for me to be here just because I know the major?”
“Absolutely! I was always so busy helping my father that I rarely ever attended school. I have very few friends of my own age. I’m very glad that I have the chance to speak with you, Lillia. The train ride will feel a lot shorter with another friend by my side.”
“That’s good to hear.” Lillia smiled, and took a sip of tea. Hilda did as well. They finished their cups almost in unison.
“How about another cup?”
Hilda and Lillia turned to Treize simultaneously.
Treize’s hesitant sips quickly turned into chugging as he drained his cup in one go.
“Right! I’ll be right back. And since Lillia’s the one who bought this tea, I’ll go buy some myself this time.”
And so, Prince Treize of Ikstova left for an errand.
Yzma cast him a lukewarm glance as he left the cabin.
In the corridor, Treize ran into Ozette, who asked him how the others were getting along.
“They’re getting along well, yes.”
Just past the coupling door, Treize ran into Major Travas and Allison, who had come to find her daughter.
“They’re getting along very well, yes.” He said to Allison, and stepped into the dining car with the teapot in his hands.
“Things are getting messy.” Allison commented.
Allison and Major Travas were speaking alone in the coupling. There was no one else around.
“Is this really all right?” Allison asked, with more than one meaning behind her question.
“Not exactly… but what can we do now? Besides…”
“…To be honest, the lady is a very lonely person. I’d like for Lillia to give her some company, at least while we’re on the train.” Major Travas said gravely. Allison stifled a laugh.
“You’re too nice, you know that? Although that’s what’s so great about you.” She said, opening the door to the dining car. Treize emerged with a full teapot in hand, surprised that the door had opened seemingly automatically.
“Thank you.” Treize said, and walked past them.
“It was the perfect chance, too.” Allison mumbled as she closed the door behind Treize. “Then could I leave her to you until nighttime?”
“It’s up to the lady, but I think so.” Travas replied.
“It won’t interfere with security?”
“If her presence in the VIP car is an interference, our security’s as good as a failure.”
“Then I’m counting on you. See you later.”
Allison gave his shoulders a pat and disappeared into the dining car.
Major Travas watched the door close, then went in the opposite direction. Then he asked Uno and Ann—who were in the corridor so as not to disturb Hilda—to resume their watch.
“Is your daughter all right? She’s been in there for quite a while.” The waiter asked Allison from the counter.
Allison drew a Roxchean Air Force ID from her pocket—secured with a lanyard—and flashed it at the waiter.
“It’s fine. Although I can’t say why. And this ID is a secret too, all right?”
“Oh. Right.” The waiter nodded, clearly not wanting to get involved.
“Could I have some tea, too?” Asked Allison, placing a coin on the counter.
Yzma opened the door for Treize when he reached the cabin. Treize stepped inside.
“I know, right? He’s not bad, but he’s, you know, kinda soft.”
“Oh, yes. I understand what you mean.”
Lillia and Hilda were chattering about him.
“Are you talking about me?” Treize asked, already aware of the answer. The girls turned.
They replied in unison, though in different registers. Then they exchanged glances and giggled.
Treize chuckled along without thinking and expertly poured three cups of tea.
“I’ll be stepping outside, Miss. Ask for me if you need any assistance—I’ll be just in the corridor. We’ll be preparing your lunches soon. If you’ll excuse me.” Yzma said, leaving the cabin.
Three people were left in the VIP cabin.
“That’s right. Everything in Iks is scrumptious, but the cheese is to die for. You couldn’t find cheese that good even in the Capital District. I’ve always thought, if I lived in Iks, I’d gain so much weight!”
“I ate cheese every day during my stay in Iks, as well. My favorite was the dish where the large wheel of cheese is cut in half and melted over charcoal to spread over vegetables. I also loved the pasta with the bowl made of cheese.”
“I know, right? With the pasta you have to take your time and mix up the noodles slowly. Then you top it off with powdered cheese. It’s really good!”
“Yes. I’d like to have them made at home once I return to Iltoa. Though the pasta might not be a challenge, I’m not certain we could procure the same kind of cheese.”
“You can have it sent by mail. Just place an order with a store in Kunst, and they’ll send you an entire wheel. My mom and I thought about ordering one, but the wheels are so big we gave up on it. But you can share the cheese with your whole family, right?”
“That would be wonderful. But would they ship to Sou Be-Il, do you think?”
“Oh… I’m not sure. Why not ask Treize and start a cheese trade?”
“That’s a wonderful idea. I’m sure people in Iltoa and Bezel will both love Ikstovan cheese and cuisine.”
“Looks like you’ve got another job on your plate, Treize. —Hilda, did you try the tiny fried fish served with vinegar? It’s got loads of diced onions—”
The amount of conversation in the cabin had increased exponentially with Lillia’s presence.
Naturally, Lillia and Hilda were the only ones talking. All Treize did was answer their occasional questions.
“Yes, we do sell those.”
“Summer, three years ago.”
“I don’t think that’s feasible.”
“I’m not sure…”
“They use black vinegar.”
“About 80 centimeters.”
That was the extent of his involvement.
Lillia and Hilda, having struck up a friendship, continued to chat endlessly.
The topic of the conversation changed easily and frequently. From food to Roxchean TV, to films, music, clothes, jewelry, hats, napping, the weather, sports, and—for some reason—ghost stories.
Hilda was especially captivated by stories about student life at the Capital District. Lillia enthusiastically chattered about school.
Treize, cowed by the sheer amount of discussion taking place, grumbled under his breath.
“Did you say something, Treize?”
The moment Treize shook his head, lunch was served to the two participants in the conversation and the lone bystander.
Ann knocked on the door and entered when she received permission. In her hands were four boxed lunches from Norn Station. Yzma followed behind her with tea.
Once Ann and Yzma were gone again, the three partook in a slightly late lunch.
Lillia and Hilda enjoyed their meal, making comments about the same sandwiches Prisoner 42 so praised.
Treize quietly—and at about double the speed—ate two portions.
Even after lunch, Lillia and Hilda’s chatter knew no end. Treize slowly took sips of tea as he watched the girls’ smiles and the passing scenery.
After his final cup of tea,
“Excuse me. Let me take the cups.” Treize said, putting the empty cups and teapot onto a tray. He folded the table as well.
When Treize came out of the cabin, Yzma spoke to him.
“I can take those. —Where are you headed?”
“Oh. The bathroom. I’m using the one in the next cabin.”
“I see. It seems very lively in there.”
“For them, yeah. But I don’t really mind being left out.”
“I mean, the lady would get bored if it were just me and her not saying anything all throughout the trip.”
“I don’t think that’s necessarily the case… but I suppose a fun chat’s not so bad, either.”
Treize went into the next cabin over, which was where he slept at night.
Yzma watched him leave and muttered under his breath.
“You’re soft, Prince. Too soft.”
Once Treize was gone, Lillia and Hilda began talking about Major Travas.
“Do you see Major Travas often, Lillia?” Hilda asked, naturally curious.
Lillia tilted her head at times as she responded.
“No. Only once in a while.”
“I see. He is a busy man, I suppose.” Hilda said sadly.
“But I think he sees Mom pretty often.”
“Oh my.” Hilda replied, this time with a smile. But that did not last long.
“I guess it’s nice to have a boyfriend, even if you’re an adult.”
Hilda blinked, furrowing her brow.
Lillia did not notice Hilda’s confusion. She simply stared out the window and repeated something she’d once said to Meg.
“Mom always looks so happy on days she goes out with the major. When I see that, I think, oh. It must be nice, having a boyfriend. At the same time, I want Mom to be even happier. I want her to be happy forever. I’m all grown up now, and Major Travas is single, I think, so I wish they’d get married.”
Hilda stared, wide-eyed. Several seconds later, Lillia looked straight at her.
“Oh, yes! Er… I’m sorry, Lillia. I was just a little surprised. You hadn’t said a thing about your father.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. My parents got married when my dad was in university, but he passed away in an accident before I was born. On a train to Sou Be-Il.”
“I see…” Hilda nodded.
‘I understand now— in order to serve my homeland and our kingdom, he—’
Hilda stood from her seat, and unconcerned that her skirt would get dirty, knelt.
She approached the surprised Lillia and gently embraced her, lightly kissing her forehead.
“I would like to express my gratitude, on behalf of my homeland. May the blessings of the angels of happiness be with you always.”
With a smile, Hilda returned to her seat.
“Er… thanks.” Lillia chuckled abashedly, not understanding what was going on.
At that point, Treize walked into the cabin with a knock.
He sensed the strange air in the cabin and raised an eyebrow.
“Did something happen?”
“Nothing at all.”
The girls replied in unison.
Treize was unconvinced, but he shrugged it off. Then,
“Oh, right! Would you like me to take a picture of you two?”
At that point,
He realized his mistake.
“Yes, please!” Hilda cut him off. She clasped her hands together ecstatically. “Please, do take a picture of me and Lillia.”
“I-is that all right?” Treize asked again for confirmation.
“But of course. Over here, Lillia.” Hilda said, gesturing Lillia to her side.
Lillia crossed over to Hilda’s side and smiled, meeting her gaze.
Treize took out his camera—with which he was unable to photograph Major Travas—from his belt pack. Holding it in both hands, he sat where Lillia had just been sitting.
Treize held the camera vertically and captured the girls in the lens. He looked away from the viewfinder for a moment to gauge the distance between himself and the subjects, then adjusted the settings.
He turned the dial on the left side of the camera to wind the film. Then,
He reached over to the dial on the right side to adjust the shutter speed.
“I’m not as good of a photographer as the person who taught me. I think I might get the exposure wrong, so I’ll be taking a few separate shots. All right—”
Hilda and Lillia leaned toward each other.
After one shot, the shutter speed dial rotated.
“A few more.”
Treize wound the film and changed the exposure each time, until he had taken about five shots.
“There. That should be enough. I’ve run out of film, too.” Treize said, once again turning the film dial on the upper left part of the camera.
“Thank you, Treize.”
“Thanks. Send me a copy, okay?”
“Of course. I’ll send copies to you both once I get it developed. By mail to Hilda.”
Treize nodded, checked that the film was completely wound back, and opened the casing. Then he took out the cartridge and went over to his knapsack in the corner of the cabin—instead of his belt pack—and put it in a small box he kept in one of the pouches.