This Year Again, We Meet at the Round Table
-Vell Eden, 14 years old-
“So, I trust that the negotiations went well?” asked Father, not looking up from his morning coffee.
Having crashed into slumber as soon as I returned from Japan from fatigue, the report I was supposed to give to Father had been delayed. As such, I had scrambled downstairs as soon as I woke up to get it over with. I had better things to spend my afternoon on, namely, figuring out which of the over-the-counter medicines I had brought back from Japan I should use on Filaine.
“Yes, Father. Arrangements have been made for Chartreuse to receive sixty tonnes of iron from the Deniev Empire and advanced farming technology from Redjuve.”
“Advanced farming technology, you say? Did the boy give any explanation of what it is? A machine to till the fields, perhaps? Or a machine for harvesting?” he asked, taking a bite out of a biscuit.
“No, though he said using it would require advanced technical understanding.”
“I suppose then we’ll have to assemble the kingdom’s best engineers to take a crack at it, then. What of our end of the deals? What will we be giving them in exchange?”
“For the iron, we are selling them thirty tonnes of rice, corn, potatoes, and wheat flour, two hundred egg-laying hens and cows, and ten tonnes of onions, carrots, tomatoes, and cabbages. For the farming technology, we are supplying thirty tonnes of wheat flour and ten tonnes of beef.”
Finally, Father looked up from his breakfast and paperwork. “Beef, you say? Certainly, we have ten tonnes of beef in surplus, it is but a drop in the bucket, but it wasn’t on the list I gave you. On what grounds did you make the judgment to agree to export beef?”
Ah… I hadn’t thought about that… I just agreed to it in the heat of the moment…
“... Well, according to the representative from the Deniev Empire, a location was found in Japan where goods can be ferried between our worlds discreetly and without the need to enter the streets of the public… So I assumed it was fine.” I said nervously, hoping that the spontaneously devised excuse would work.
Father rubbed his chin for a while, ruminating on the matter. “I suppose it is fine? My main concern was moving the carcasses inconspicuously, after all. Although this place in Japan you say can be used for the transfer, do the goods go through our door in the castle then to a place the boy has rented, or…?”
“In the building he mentioned, he said that there were other doors that led to our respective worlds. Although his survey of the surroundings lacked any landmarks, his description resembles the southern Erie Plains.”
“Is that so?” He looked at the clock on the wall and stood up. “Is there anything else the boy mentioned in your negotiations for us to do?”
“Yes, Father. He asked that we choose a representative to oversee the shipping process in the room.”
“That is easy enough to do - I shall appoint one of the chancellors to the role.” Father opened his desk’s drawers and rummaged about until he pulled out the royal seal. “Do you have anything important on your schedule for this week?”
“N-no. My plans were to continue studying for my duties as Crown Princess.” I couldn’t tell him that I was planning on diagnosing Filaine on my own and studying medicine. He would certainly disapprove of me possibly harming Filaine as an unlicensed practitioner, and could possibly revoke my right to go to Japan, cutting off my access to their pharmaceutical research. Not only would it make the ordeal of treating Filaine’s illness more difficult, but he would certainly send a chancellor to Japan in place of me, cutting off my contact from Alistair and Fior.
“Perfect.” Father quickly scrawled out a note and stamped it with the royal seal, handing it to me. “Go meet with Officer Hamerrin and give him this letter; take one of the cartographers in the Library with you, too.”
“Pardon? For what purpose?”
He blinked at me as if the answer was obvious. “Well, to secure the door in the Erie Plains, of course. We’ll need to set up a storehouse there and roads leading directly to the capital. You’ll be leading the expedition to locate it, seeing as you and Filaine lived in a cottage there with your grandmother for a year, and it’s faster than figuring out which, if any, of the soldiers are familiar with the area.”
“A-and how long will this expedition take?”
“If all goes well, you should be able to finish searching the area in a week with the description the boy gave to you, no? You don’t need to stay there for the construction; you can return here once the door is located.”
Unable to refuse his order, I stood there, paralyzed. A week is a short time, yes, but the grim reaper does not care for time; for all I knew, Filaine’s disease could rapidly become more severe and she could pass away in that week I was away. Once again, my duties as Crown Princess were interfering with my duties towards family.
“Is something wrong?”
“N-no. I was just trying to narrow down the possible locations in my mind. I’ll set off for the garrison in an hour.”
Turning on my heel, I walked briskly out of Father’s office, breaking out into a run once I closed the door and nearly knocking one of the maids over. I had bought myself some time, but not nearly enough to do anything significant. With the hour I had, I could probably choose something to treat her symptoms.
Oh, if the first bottle of colored syrup or pills I had grabbed off the shelves of the convenience store held the solution to my woes… But I knew it would not be that easy, even with the pharmaceutical advances of Japan I had read about in the books. After all, teams of doctors had taken turns trying their treatments on Filaine; Mother had even used her connections to bring a group of herbal medicine experts from the East but to no avail.
Slamming open the door to my room, I scrambled to find the plastic bag that contained the medicines. I had collapsed on my bed last night; where I had placed it before blacking out was a mystery to me. The closet, the bookshelves, my keepsakes box - it was in none of those places. Finally, I found it in my nightstand drawer; opening it and seeing the multicolored bottles felt like opening a treasure chest.
As quickly as I had arrived in my room, I left for Filaine’s room. Fortune was on my side; according to the maids, she had been waking up later and falling asleep earlier recently. Visiting her this early would mean she was still asleep - a good thing, since she would never let me fret over her like this, feigning health and vitality so I wouldn’t worry.
Just to be safe, I decided to stop one of the senior maids who was tasked with attending to Filaine in the hall. “Excuse me, Miss Eunice, but is Filaine asleep?” I asked, tapping on her shoulder.
“W-who?” Miss Eunice turned around, startled. “O-oh, It’s just your Royal Highness. I’m sorry, you gave me quite the fright.”
“No, it’s quite alright. Again, I ask, is Filaine asleep?”
“Yes, she should be asleep for another two hours or so. Are you going to visit her, your Royal Highness?”
“Don’t tell Father about this, but yes. What of Filaine’s condition? Have the doctors noted any changes recently?”
“Her Royal Highness Filaine’s condition has been stable, for the most part. However, the doctors worry that her appetite will begin to wane-”
“- Thank you, that is all I needed to hear,” I said, interrupting Miss Eunice with a finger to her lips. The crucial information was that Filaine’s condition was stable - the chance of her withering away this week would be low, though not zero, and hopefully the various medicines I had brought from Japan could bring it lower.
From the top of the stairs, I tip-toed down the hall to Filaine’s room so as to not wake her up. Gently, I eased the door open and slipped through, taking care not to let the door produce any noise. I had roughly twenty minutes to figure something out for Filaine before I had to leave for the stables. Thankfully, the doctors would leave their daily observation journal in the room by the nightstand for the maids, which I immediately picked up and read.
Shortness of breath… Occasional fevers… Fatigue and lethargy… Speech occasionally begins to slur… Coughing yellow mucus…
Every note the doctors had made in the journal was painful for me to read, like knives cutting at my flesh. Ever since I had succeeded Filaine as the Crown Princess, she and Father had both decided to try and hide the severity of her illness from me. Since the festival last year I had only visited Filaine a couple of times, and each time she had put on a guise of being full of vitality. From the maids, I had learned that her condition had worsened over time, but until now I had not known of the extent and the specifics.
Setting down the journal, I looked at Filaine, who was asleep peacefully. Her skin was beginning to turn pale, and her arms were beginning to become thin. I could see that her cheeks had become sunken, and her hair had lost its beautiful golden luster. This was not the vibrant Filaine that I once knew; that now only existed in the picture album of my childhood memories. Instead, I was looking at a Filaine who was gaunt and exhausted, teetering closer to the land of the dead with every passing day.
A single tear trickled down my face as I lamented the fact that despite my best efforts, her illness was proceeding to a point where perhaps I was too late - but only a single tear. I told myself that I would have to be strong for her, though I knew that I couldn’t be stronger than her, who was close to death yet feigned health for the sake of her family.
Riffling through the plastic bag, I laid the medicines out on the floor of her room and sat there trying to determine which one I should leave for the maids to administer.
This one? No, it says that it’s for alleviating symptoms of allergies… if Filaine was stricken by allergies all along, that would be a cruel joke to the doctors who tried so hard. What about this one? No, that’s stomach medicine…
Ah… this one reduces fevers… that was one of the symptoms mentioned in the journal…
By the end of the thinning process, I was left with three bottles of liquid that promised to reduce fevers and coughing and two bottles of pills that promised to counter bacterial infection. Of them, I chose a single bottle of red liquid labeled “Tirenol” - combining medicines could lead to disastrous side effects, as much as I wanted to cover all my bases. Quickly, I scrawled out a note in Chartreuse’s language for the maids to administer a dose, one small cup full, every eight hours, and for them to notify me if her body reacted improperly to the medicine. Hopefully they would be able to decipher my hurried handwriting - nobody in this world was capable of understanding the Japanese writing on the bottle’s label other than me.
As I gathered the unused bottles of medicine, I noticed that at the bottom of the plastic bag sat a single packaged melon bun - something that I had hastily grabbed off the shelves at the convenience store. Why it was with the medicines, I had no answer, but it certainly was a stroke of fortune. Picking up the quill again, I hastily wrote another note, this time addressed to Filaine, before quietly leaving her room.
Eat it. From Japan. Vell.