Train in the Clouds
I always knew I was the naive type. As I had referred to the princess, I believed that all people possessed more goodness and that negative influences sooner or later would have disappeared. Just like in the movies, when the bad guy realizes he has gone the wrong way and looks for new chances to prove his good nature.
But, over time, I realized that not everyone follows this same principle. And that reflection began to insert its roots in my head after a specific event.
The first parchment written by the King and the Council.
I had found this parchment a few hours after my return to the locomotive: after an afternoon nap, I had left my room for a few minutes to eat some snacks and drink some green tea in the restaurant cabin. Mivrea was still sleeping on one of the armchairs and I didn't dare wake her up.
I was forced to do so, however, when I returned and found that rolled up piece of paper, closed with a large green ribbon. I pulled off the thick ribbon and the contents of the document were as follows:
'Dear Mr. Yamamura,
We evaluated your first test: despite our slight discontent caused by some of your reckless actions, after a rather long meeting, we came to the conclusion that the test was passed. We ask you kindly to go to cabin 235 tomorrow at 8 AM.
Royal Council of Sir Gustave Seiler '
'Wait .. Was that all a test? I could have broken my leg by throwing myself off that thing! Besides, how the hell did they know everything so quickly? Mivrea-san certainly couldn't have told them. But then the thief? Was it all a farce with him too? And those tears that seemed so sincere?' Questions moved around my head in a constant whirlwind.
Mivrea, after reading, was as confused as I was, as she knew very little about how the Knights of Honor were chosen. I, however, had plunged into a state of confusion. I knew that the only way to get some answers was to wait patiently for the hours to pass, and then be accompanied to the chosen place.
So, to calm my mind, I needed something soothing. For this, I immediately went to look for some butlers. I saw Rahul, quite agitated, as he accompanied a lady, who did nothing but complain. He twisted his face into false smiles and tried to make them look as truthful as possible.
"I swear I've never received such indecent service! Where have the old servants gone?" She was waving her arms in the air. Rahul, meanwhile, continued to pretend and apologize. Once the woman was gone, I went to the man.
"Rahul-san, I need to take another bath in yesterday's car. Could you accompany me?" I pleaded as I tried my best not to show my discomfort.
"Of course. Come with me."
And so, I soon found myself in a large bathtub. I had requested a different one: the greater my bad mood, the more I needed to feel pampered by someone or something. And that something, in that case, was the soft and delicate foam that spread in the water, mixed with a sweet scent, similar to vanilla, and the roaring noise of the small waterfall. In fact, the room was decorated in an oriental style and it had been cared for in every detail: small sakura flowers were scattered here and there on the smooth rocks that separated the large tub, while jets of water - precisely, the falls - came out from every where. It almost felt like I was in a natural paradise.
I sank into the foamy water and breathed a sigh of relief. 'Now this is life.' I thought. But something still tormented me and I tried to calm the residues of that feeling.
It couldn't be fake for sure, right? Surely it was just my imagination.
At one point, as the numbness on my body, given by the pursuit and sleep, began to disappear, the sliding door to the bathroom was thrown open. A boy with blond hair and two large silver eyes entered, covered in a whitish garment that effectively covered the private parts. He looked around anxiously, then stepped into the water and sat down a few feet away from me.
I didn't take much notice and continued to relax, but I was forced to turn in the direction of the stranger when I heard him speak.
"Of course this place is full of ridiculous people." He complained, "I've already argued with someone twice since I've set foot on here."
I thought I recognized that voice, so I didn't hesitate to ask questions. "Were you by any chance in front of the Golden Suite yesterday? I heard someone arguing."
"Ah! Yes, it was me! I didn't think I was heard. I was arguing with a Duchess. She knocked me down and called me a 'horrible spoiled dog'. She didn't even deign to apologize. What cheap people!"
The boy was a little taller than me and he had to be older because he had a mature and responsible face.
"So you're the Human this whole mess was set up for! I don't really envy you. In fact, you should just give it up and ask to go back to your country." The blond spoke fast and gave me no room to answer.
"It's all bad guys up here! Even the Sovereign is a cheap usurper. It was enough to draw a 'magic' sword and everyone started drooling at him."
"I don't think there are only bad guys up here, even though I witnessed a terrible scene this morning. They are just the usual vices nobles have, I guess." I commented as I ran a hand through my dark wet hair.
"Ah, the violin scene?" The young stranger asked, "Yeah, it always happens. You were really brave! Leaving the place like that." I didn't answer at first and just looked straight ahead.
"Ah .. you think?"
"Yes, absolutely. I would never have been able to do such a thing." Then there was a minute of silence.
"Of course it can't be easy for you, Heiji-kun. Having to pass all those tests .."
"I guess my name is something known here." I thought with a dull gaze, "But I sure don't understand how the heck these tests to pass work."
"I don't know much." He admitted, "I just know that that mongrel King always has news about everything and everyone. Some of his personal dogs might be watching you closely even now; you just can't trust anyone here."
I felt confused and even a little shocked by what that boy was telling me. 'Are they really spying on me?' I looked around, lost.
Then I lifted my body and whispered in the blond's ear. "Actually, things seem a little strange to me. Could you tell me more?"
"If you are really interested in my explanations, go to my cabin. Right wagon, number 145." And we looked at each other with complicity, as if we had already become friends, "My name is Heathcliff Alston, eldest son of the Alston family. Nice to meet you, Heiji Yamamura-kun."
Then he looked away. "And please, cover up that thing. I can't bear to look at it."
Heathcliff quickly got up and went out to rinse, giving me just one last look. Then the door closed and, instinctively, I covered my face in pain. First that strange document and now these scary informations that could have been true. I felt my head spin and grabbed one of the large stones next to me to keep me standing.
Later, I was taken to my wagon and thanked Rahul warmly. I entered my suite and found the princess half asleep again in her armchair. Her lips were dirty from the many Panchoks she had greedily devoured in my absence. I started walking up and down the room uneasily.
"Well .." Mivrea rubbed her eyes, "what's wrong now? Shouldn't you be happy to have passed the test?"
"No, Mivrea-san. I thought what I was doing was true. So that boy was an actor? And how was I seen?"
"Heiji, I don't know what to say here but I know for a fact that the guy didn't seem like an actor." The girl seemed to wake up a little. "I personally witnessed the interrogation."
"What did he say? About that rebellion against your Father's Kingdom or whatever you said." Mivrea saw my worried look and bit her lip.
"He was angry and said that no one was on his side, generally. My only guess at the time was that he was from the Proditor territory." She explained, "They were allies of the enemies in the War of Succession and, after my father won, they were isolated in that place. That's why I begged you not to help him! .. Anyway, maybe there is some secret here; my daddy never told me anything."
'This Sovereign does not seem so reliable.' I dared to think in that moment. 'And she doesn't seem to be as knowledgeable on this War as I thought.'
"But never doubt my daddy! He knows what he does and he would never make mistakes!"
I was silent for a few minutes then I began to complain.
"I'm still confused about so many things .. God, I don't understand anything anymore. And surely that Heathcliff's words didn't help!" I stated as I slid into the soft chair.
"Heathcliff? You mean .. Heathcliff Alston?" The princess jumped to her feet. "The Alston family is on this train!?"
Mivrea's face seemed to contort in an angry expression, which terrified me terribly. I had never seen her like this, despite her strangeness.
"How .. how dare they?" She put a hand to her chest to calm herself and began to breathe deeply.
"I don't know if his family is here too, but what's wrong with him? He didn't seem unpleasant to me." I shrugged. "Surely you are exaggerating as usual."
"No, Heiji-kun! Don't trust him at all!" She cried, clenching her fists.
"At least tell me why." I asserted calmly, even as my soul became more and more impetuous. She sat down and started stamping her feet, then she explained in an irritated tone.
"The story is very long and complex, besides talking about it is not good for me." Said the princess, "But I would like to know what he told you. You absolutely must not listen to that being."
'She's exaggerating, I'm sure.' I told myself. I realized that part of me was already beginning to have doubts about her. After all, we had only recently known each other and I couldn't even say we got along.
I felt like what had happened those two days was just a long dream. I couldn't tell if it was a good dream or a nightmare, but, easily, I expected something different. I expected beings similar to those characters found in fantasy mangas: usually, there was a naive but attractive princess, with a sweet and respectful demeanor, followed by warriors, seductive waitresses or girls with animal characteristics. Something along those lines, let's say.
Instead, almost everyone I had met were spoiled and selfish noblewomen and noblemen who seemed to have mixed feelings about humans. What were humans to them? Just distant people who came from apes and fought each other? How could they deduce this anyway if, in 400 years, contacts with humans were so few that they could be counted using fingertips?
In short, who were the inhabitants of the Nuvoland Empire?
Suddenly, for some reason unknown at the time, Heathcliff's words came back to me: 'You just can't trust anyone.'
Meanwhile, when Mivrea saw that I didn't answer, she sighed and her fingers began to fiddle with the layers of her skirt.
"If you're thinking about that beast's words, you're a fool." She whimpered. "And you will soon regret it, you will see!"
"And now I need air." She then continued and, suddenly, she got up, visibly agitated, threw open the sliding door and left the cabin.