Chapter 5: The Mysterious Transfer Student
“The dance party two days ago was magnificent. I had a wonderful time, myself. But more importantly, do any of you recall the pair that stepped up first? The couple that flaunted their incredible dance skills.”
“Of course!” Meg cried, raising her hand.
Seron nodded. “They’re both classmates of mine. And I see the guy at the dorms often.”
Larry was next. “Yeah. Seron told me.”
“I know of them,” said Jenny, “never talked to either of them, though.”
“Megmica’s friend Lillia Schultz, and the transfer student she’s been friends with for a while. What was his name again? I swear I’ve heard it before.” Natalia wondered.
“His name is Treize Bain,” said Nick, looking around at the others, “he is a year older than us, but transferred into the fourth-year classes.”
“Just like Megmica,” Natalia noted. Meg nodded.
“And about this Treize Bain—it seems that there is quite a bit of mystery about him.”
“Yes, Nat. Mystery.” Nick held up his left index finger. “Supposedly Treize is a transfer student from the Kingdom of Iks. That begs the question: why? Iks is located all the way at the western edge of Roxche, in the middle of the Central Mountain Range. In addition, few people our age would dare to interrupt their studies to switch schools. And as Seron has noted, Treize lives in the dorms, implying that he has not simply been caught up in a sudden family move. Curious, is it not?”
“Yeah,” said Jenny, “I guess it’s not common. You don’t have to travel halfway across the continent to find a secondary school. And even if he really just wanted to attend a secondary school in the Capital District, there must be a reason why he chose ours. The fact that he’s friends with Lillia Schultz isn’t reason enough. Not many parents would give their kid permission to move for something like that. So, what else?”
Nick held up his thumb. “Seron and Megmica may know already as they are his classmates, but Treize Bain is quite the accomplished student. Pardon the expression, but for a ‘country bumpkin’ from Iks, he does not seem to be having much difficulty keeping up with our curriculum. Even more remarkable as the transfer exam and classes at our school are on the challenging side. Do you not agree, Seron?”
“I suppose,” Seron said. Meg, who was also in the same class, did not object.
Nick continued. “He is also remarkably athletic. According to an acquaintance, the gym teacher was astounded by Treize Bain’s skill on the horizontal bars. He performed several giant swings back-to-back before being asked to come down, at which point he let go of the bar and landed on his feet several meters away. I am told that he strode back to his place in line afterwards as if nothing had happened.”
Larry’s eyes turned to dinner plates. “Talk about some crazy semicircular canals. You can’t pull off a move like that unless you’ve been turned upside-down a lot. You think he might have been a gymnast back in Iks?”
“It is indeed a possibility, but if that were the case, he would have joined the gymnastics club by now. And the story does not end there!”
Nick was unusually excited. “What happened next?” asked Seron.
“The teacher then asked him to demonstrate another maneuver. I fear I do not know the name of the technique, but it was one that requires the dynamic use of one’s upper body. But Treize Bain declined, saying—” Nick paused dramatically. “—‘I’m very sorry, but I broke my ribs recently and have to wait for them to heal’.”
Silence fell over the room.
“…Then you mean he pulled off the dance with broken ribs? Wow.”
“Come to think of it,” said Seron, “I remember hearing something about that at the beginning of the term. When Treize was introducing himself.”
Lillia had smacked Treize, shoved him against the blackboard, and shaken him by the collar.
If Treize’s ribs had already been broken before that point, Lillia’s actions were cruel indeed. Neither Seron nor Meg decided to reveal her ruthlessness to the others.
“Then I guess the ribs are starting to heal. But it’s still pretty crazy. Forget the pain—what if he fell doing the giant swings and hurt himself again? He could have punctured his lungs if they broke. Is he not scared? Or maybe he knows himself well and has confidence because he’s faced something even scarier and won,” Jenny speculated in a rare show of awe. “But either way, that takes ‘gymnast’ off the list of possibilities.”
“A professional wouldn’t do something that reckless.”
“Aha,” Natalia nodded. Nick continued.
“That is not all. Treize Bain has shown talent in sprinting, long-distance running, swimming, and all sorts of other activities. Every sports club in the school is determined to recruit him, using any means necessary. Although it seems he has managed to elude them so far.”
“I see him at the dorms often,” said Seron, “and he’s always studying. After class he holes up in the study rooms. I can tell he’s a hard worker.”
“Indeed. A diligent student who never once stops in his journey of self-improvement. He is a determined one indeed, if he is not even tempted by the entertainment the Capital District has to offer.” Nick nodded. “Ladies and gentlemen! Here we have a talented and earnest transfer student veiled in mystery, his timing and reasons unknown. Just who in the world could this enigmatic young man be?!”
It was a theatrical declaration that bordered on the melodramatic when combined with Nick’s remarkable performance.
“What’s your take?” Natalia asked, picking up yet another wafer. She was the only one still eating.
“Excellent question, Nat. Here is my hypothesis…” Nick said, putting a hand on his chest. “The transfer student Treize Bain…is a morderca!”
“A what?” Natalia furrowed her brow. Nick deflated slightly.
Seron glanced at Meg.
She did not seem to want to say anything. So Seron explained in her stead.
“Morderca is a Bezelese word for a certain type of armed group. It comes from their word for ‘assassin’. The morderca worked as spies and assassins in the past. They were different from special forces or people who worked for kings or intelligence agencies. They were like a mercenary force composed of entire clans or villages, who worked for whichever kings or militaries hired them. Think of Roxche’s free knights or knights-for-hire. The difference is that each individual morderca is a trained fighter. Even now period novels and films feature them and their superhuman feats.”
“I expected nothing less from you, Seron. A gold star for you.”
Larry, who also knew a little about the morderca, turned. “But Nick, I thought morderca didn’t exist anymore.”
“Indeed, perhaps not as they had in the past. But perhaps Treize Bain is a descendant? It seems quite plausible to me,” Nick replied.
Larry shrugged. “I dunno…”
“Now that you mention it,” Natalia said, glancing at Larry, “the Hepburns used to be knights-for-hire back in the day too, eh? Hey there, warrior descendant.”
Meg looked up at Larry, surprised. Larry put on an embarrassed look.
“Can’t believe you managed to remember that with your intelligence, Lia. You must’ve heard it from my mom or your mother. Yes, we were knights-for-hire, but that was a really long time ago. Our family founder was a mercenary and sometimes we served whoever paid the most, but not after we swore fealty to Venerus II 490 years ago.”
“That’s enough of the history lesson,” Jenny said, bringing the conversation back on track, “the important thing is figuring out whether this Treize Bain is a morderca or not. Thing is, this guy’s from Ikstova, which is in Roxche. How do you explain that, Nick?”
“Indeed, Iks is an Eastern country. But earlier this year I devised a theory that may support my hypothesis. In fact, that Treize Bain is from the Kingdom of Iks seems to me further proof that he may be a descendant of the morderca. I would not suppose so if, for instance, he had transferred from the Republic of Raputoa.”
“And what is this theory?”
“It began with the announcement of the Ikstova Pass, which proved that humans have been able to traverse the Central Mountain Range on foot for a very long time. I spoke about this with Larry earlier, but I posited that perhaps Iks’s royal family, who were hiding the existence of the pass, were originally Westerners who had crossed over into the East through the pass. Then it is possible that the descendants of the morderca may be living in Iks—perhaps no longer in the function of assassins, but still with the skillset passed down to them from their ancestors!” Nick declared, and took a sip of tea.
“Hm. I see.” Jenny nodded.
“I don’t see any particular inconsistencies,” Seron said, taking into account that Nick’s theory was simply a theory and nothing more.
“Dunno much about that stuff but it sounds pretty cool. And it’s making me thirsty,” Natalia said, and asked Larry for more tea.
Meg remained as silent as before.
Larry poured Natalia the last of the teapot’s contents. “So what’s this morderca descendant doing at our school? Is the faculty hiding something big? Like a treasure or something?”
It was an understandable question.
“I can say for certain that I have no idea!”
—was disappointingly resolute.
Larry shook his head in disbelief. “Well, I guess it sounds pretty interesting. But what exactly would you want to do with Treize Bain?”
“The answer is obvious, Larry. In which club office are we seated?”
“The afternoon tea club—I mean, the newspaper club. So you want us to investigate this guy and figure out who he is, why he’s at our school?”
“Hmm… What do you say, Jenfie?” Larry turned to Jenny, then rose to put the kettle on again.
Jenny crossed her arms and fell into thought as she usually did.
All the while, Seron kept his eyes on his fiancée.
She was still silent, and a little hesitant on top of that.
“Well.” Jenny finally broke her silence. “I suppose we are out of gossip to cover. There’s no real reason not to do it. Figure out Treize Bain’s secrets, I mean.”
“Excellent!” Nick exclaimed. But Seron was not so excited.
“But if Treize really is a morderca and hiding the fact, it’s something he obviously doesn’t want other people to know. Wouldn’t there be consequences if we revealed his identity?”
Nick’s response was simple and clear.
“No true morderca would be clumsy enough to be discovered by a group of teenagers. And even should we manage to find evidence of such, I shall leave the matter of publishing the content to Jenny’s judgement.”
Seron fell silent.
“That is pure evil, Nicholas Browning. And brilliant.” Natalia turned to Jenny. “Well, chief?”
The final decision was Jenny’s. She nodded.
“I guess we’ll begin the investigation tomorrow. We’ll start by quietly collecting any rumors that are going around about this guy. Don’t be too forward—remember, we don’t want him to find out we’re investigating him. Don’t go out of your way to ask strangers. And if you’re lucky, you just might find someone with some info. Be discreet about it. The next meeting is in three days. I’m busy with other things tomorrow and the day after, so I have to go straight home after school. Sound all right?”
It was a proud show of her leadership as president and editor-in-chief.
“Sure.” “All right.” “How exciting.”
Meg alone said absolutely nothing as she sipped on the remainder of her cold tea.
Seron watched her in silence.
The meeting that day ended before the sun set.
After making the decision to investigate Treize, the club moved on to chatting about other things. The meeting had turned into a tea party.
Jenny and Meg, who were usually picked up at the intersection outside the gates, called their respective bodyguard-drivers (who were on standby in the area) on the office telephone. Larry washed the cups and teapot and placed them on the racks.
“Let’s get going,” said Jenny, picking up her camera bag, “someone shut the curtains.”
Recently, the club had been closing their curtains to prevent anyone from peering inside from the central gardens. This time, Nick volunteered for the job.
“Hold on, Nick. I’m staying behind today; I can take care of it,” said Seron.
“Oh? You’re staying?” Asked Jenny. As she had no objections, she took out her key and put it back where it was.
“I need to talk to you about something, Meg,” Seron said, “it’s not going to take too long. I can walk you to the gates after.”
Natalia reacted immediately. “Whoa! You are a brave man, Seron. Now let’s see if I can find someplace to watch you two from. Don’t worry, I won’t interrupt or anything.”
“Shut up, Lia. —Don’t forget to lock up,” Larry said. He neatly folded his apron and placed it on the shelf, then pulled on his jacket. And then he pushed the others out of the office. “See you guys.”
Meg’s face was a mess of anxiety, disappointment, and amusement. It was a blank face she almost never wore.
Seron waited for the others’ footsteps to fade before he finally spoke.
“Sorry, Meg. I promise it won’t take long.”
“Y-yes! B-but! That is! Not until marriage!”
“Huh? No, er, th-that’s not what I meant.” Seron looked away, blushing.
Meg looked into his eyes.
“About the investigation.”
“I can tell you’re not keen on investigating Treize.”
“…As expected from you, Seron. You are right!” Meg did not hide her anger and nervousness. “I am opposing investigating Treize. He is the friend of my friend Lillia, and anyone has a secret that they do not want people to know.”
“But last time…it is exactly the thing I did. I pushed a person to a corner and pulled up her secrets. I said that I was the right one, forwardly, and proudly.”
“And as a result, I pushed that person to a corner. So someone like me who has done this, I do not think is allowed to be proud and say, ‘everyone must stop this’.”
Seron quietly listened to Meg and nodded his head.
“Treize, a morderca? It does not seem true at all. No, I will rather be happier if he is a clumsy morderca,” Meg chuckled sadly.
“You can tell her, Meg. I just wanted to tell you that,” Seron said, meeting Meg’s gaze.
“Yes? Tell to whom? And what?”
“You can tell Lillia Schultz about the club investigating Treize.”
Meg was silent.
“Even if the others find out you leaked information, I’ll be on your side. I can even tell them that I told Schultz, too.”
“…You are an amazing person, Seron. I think that you can see all of my thoughts.”
“You don’t have to waver between Schultz and the newspaper club. Everyone has a secret or two. But this time, let’s make it a secret that we’re keeping together.”
“Oh my goodness! You are very cool, Seron!” Meg beamed, her burdens lifted. “Then I will telephone to Lillia later! I will tell Lillia to tell Treize to be careful! Then Treize will be! There will be a smaller possibility of finding out!”
“Yeah. Sounds good.” Seron nodded firmly and glanced at his watch.
His mother had bought him the Whitfield wristwatch when he first entered secondary school. It would fetch a high enough price to take Seron home from anywhere in Roxche.
“We shouldn’t keep your driver waiting too long. Let’s lock up and go.”
“Yes! But before this, please tell me the time!”
“Hm? Aren’t you—”
Seron pointed at her left wrist.
Meg was also wearing a Whitfield luxury wristwatch, a ladies’ version of the one Seron wore. It was the first thing that rose to Seron’s mind when his mother pressed him to think of an engagement gift.
“Yes! I am wearing the wristwatch! It is a very correct watch but I wish to know your watch’s time.”
Though confused, Seron read out the time on his watch to the second. Being mechanical, their watches could be thrown off by several seconds a day.
“Thank you! I will set my time now.”
Meg wound her watch, matching Seron’s time to the very second.
“Here!” She smiled, holding out her wrist.
Seron switched to Bezelese. “There is no guarantee that my time is accurate. Is this all right?”
“Yeah!” Meg replied in the same tongue, “I like being on the same time as you!”