Train in the Clouds
We had finally reached Valendella.
I hadn't slept at all and I was in a terrible state after that tea I was forced to drink. That liquid, without my being aware of it, contained some substance to give energy; probably a mistake not noticed by Alder, who always seemed so flawless.
I had therefore spent the next two hours watching the sunrise out of the bright window, with Brick's snoring as my soundtrack: that pink mixed with orange, yellow and ten other shades, as in a big blender of colors, made me strangely remember the almost always irritated princess I had met in the kitchen.
Her personality had something that attracted me even though she was like a mixture of different moods, which layered on top of each other, to then create a chaos of characteristics. A chaos that, however, I found quite relaxing.
"Mivrea .. huh?" I said in a low voice without even thinking about it and I hinted at a smile. However, when I saw my own actions clearly, I blushed violently and shrugged to stop thinking.
"In love, I see?" I had heard Brick's joking voice and jumped out of my chair, red in the face.
"What are you talking about? As if a haughty princess like her could .."
At some point, however, everything around us had started to shake. I knew right away that this was about arriving at our new destination. Brick, on the other hand, didn't realize it at first and started stammering.
Anyway, my host didn't want to get off the train and I was forced to abandon him as I went in search of Heathcliff and Benedith.
So, back to Valendella.
It was a very different town from the first I visited: Noslepums was very simple in decoration and reminded of certain Japanese neighborhoods, organized and tidy; Valendella, on the other hand, was characterized by huge and classy buildings on all sides.
Huge statues of winged beings, positioned above dark and frighteningly large gates, guarded the villas. Inside the gardens, you could see the large lawns, full of flowers and shrubs of all kinds.
"W-woah .. this is absurd!" I exclaimed, drool dripping from my mouth. "The people here are really rich."
"Of course," Benedith said, after a chuckle, "This part of Valendella is where high-ranking noblewomen and noblemen are gathered. Later, we'll find the more popular neighborhoods."
Heathcliff and his maid moved so quickly, as if they were used to seeing certain things. Well, of course they were, I thought.
I, on the other hand, stayed behind and stopped to look at every detail with a certain interest.
"What is it, Heiji-kun?" The blond asked, "Problems with the T. Wings?"
The T. Wings were the devices humans had to wear to walk on clouds - the same ones that were given to me in Noslepums and then on that second destination.
"Emh, no. I'm just stunned." I replied as I scratched the back of my neck, embarrassed.
"Ah, understood." Heathcliff said simply, suddenly becoming very gloomy. After that skimpy sentence, he didn't speak for a while and it was Benedith who answered several questions I asked on the spot.
"Valendella is currently located a few heads from Gustave Seiler's Royal Palace. It is a place well known for its textile productions: most of the weavers and tailors employed in the Court come from here. It is said that they manage to finish a dress three times faster than usual. " The woman explained, with a sweet smile, "Another specialty are Kandis, small chewy sweets that have different flavors."
'Like gummy candies.' I thought and smiled instinctively. 'If Mivrea were here, she would have dragged me to some sweets shop.'
I realized what I was thinking and gave myself a small slap on both cheeks.
Plus, Mivrea was gone again. Imagining her in that moment would have only made me anxious.
"Benedith," Heathcliff stopped being silent and looked at the maid, "We should show him our mansion. There's a Vanker service nearby, so let's hurry before anyone else uses them."
"Sure, my lord. Come on, Mr. Heiji!" The woman looked at me strangely and motioned me to walk faster.
We walked for a while, between luxurious buildings and little shops on the sides with complicated writing. Several people, including train passengers, walked enthusiastically on the street, pointed out small details, talked animatedly, observed my figure or sat on some table in a café to taste dishes.
It was a delight for the eyes to see all those brightly colored dresses and those faces animated by curiosity.
We quickly reached a square, with a large funnel-like object in the center. Around the place were tall plants, with branches full of fragrant white flowers.
"What's that big thing?" I asked, pointing to the funnel.
"It's the only way for us to see the human world, due to all the limitations. The Glasher, positioned above a hole created hundreds of years ago." Benedith replied, extending her thin arm.
"Hole created how?"
"Nobody knows exactly. It could have been a divine grace." Ventured the woman, with a mysterious smile that didn't suit her at all.
I then heard conversations from certain individuals, who seemed as highly placed as most people, near the Glasher. One of them leaned towards the funnel hole and made sounds of admiration.
"What the heck is that? Also, what weird clothes Humans wear."
"Let me see- ah, I think that structure was called, um, temple. Yes, temple."
"What territory is it anyway? Which kingdom does it belong to?" Another asked while he was cleaning an object similar to a drummer.
"China! China!" One answered. "Don't you know? Just recently, it was re-released with additional information 'Discovering Human Territory'."
"It doesn't matter. We have to perform, old wimps!" The guy with the musical instrument said and, quickly, the strangers got into position and began to perform, presenting a very lively and catchy melody, which spread throughout the square.
I watched the scene with a lot of interest, but what obviously struck me most was the fact that I had strayed so far from Japan. I was even above China!
"The Square of Good Souls is always full of talented artists. ~" The maid hummed, distracting me from my thoughts. Heathcliff motioned her to shut up.
"Let's hurry up, come on." He ordered us almost severely and we hurried away from the performance, although several people had already begun to dance around and clap their hands, as if in a festive atmosphere. We turned in the direction of an alley, full of shops, where groups admired the shop windows, decorated with white flags.
I saw a floating vehicle whizzing along the little street and Heathcliff noticed it too, because he quickened his pace. That thing was certainly the Vanker we were supposed to take.
"We have arrived." The blond said, once we arrived in front of one of the many shops. We went inside quickly, I was the last in line.
It was a nearly empty room. The checkered floor was ruined to one point, where a large striped curtain was placed, hiding the back.
An elegantly dressed gentleman took off his pointed hat. "Welcome, monsieur."
"We'd like a Vanker. I can pay with two Shellys."
"You're lucky, there's only one left." The man winked, then called some of his aides. "Goji! Get it out!"
"Yes, sir." A skinny boy came out of the tent, carrying that carriage-like vehicle with a very thick rope. Once the Vanker was completely out, my friend handed the coins to the vendor and the guy helped us with getting on it.
I was the first to go: I stood on a small balustrade, moved the semi-transparent curtains, attached to the window, and immediately sat down on the armchair located inside. My companions followed and we immediately set off, after Benedith set the destination on a thing similar to the train's Sky System.
The journey was more or less silent, apart from a few comments I made here and there and the woman's lively responses. Her lord had no intention of uttering a word: he stood with his arms crossed, looking out.
'Who knows why he seems so tense. Doesn't he have good relationships with his family? ' I thought when my eyes fell on his figure. He had seemed pretty serious to me from the start, but definitely not to that point.
"Ah! That mansion is huge!" I exclaimed after a while, as I pointed my finger at a giant house with semi-oriental features. "I wonder who lives there."
"That's ours." Mr. Alston replied curtly, "Indeed, all the land around that belongs to us."
My eyes almost popped out when I noticed a huge Japanese-style garden next to the stately building. I could even glimpse trees that had sakura trees-like shapes.
"S-so you mean that we're heading there." I stammered, too caught up in my shock.
"Exactly, is there a problem?" The blonde raised an eyebrow and I waved my arms, embarrassed.
"Absolutely not! It's just ... woah."
"The Lady will be extremely happy to receive this visit." The woman said, "From a Human, especially."
"Lady?" I asked, confused.
"The young lord's mother, Olga Python-Alston." She explained, "Even though he's not the only child, he has a younger sister named Cleya Alazne Alston."
"Cleya means 'ice' in our language." Heathcliff added, "That's why she's so stiff and boring."
"Oh, that's not true. She's a really sweet young lady to some people. Besides, she's definitely very beautiful. She's even won a beauty pageant in the town of Serselh."
'This makes me want to meet her a little bit.' I said to myself.
"Don't you dare look at my sister like that, Heiji." The blond pointed a finger at me, with a serious expression. Without realizing it, I had begun to grin in a funny way.
"I won't, I won't! Ah- Heathcliff-san, don't squeeze my shoulder like that! It hurts!"
"Promise you won't." He said, "Or you might regret it."
"Oh-oh, you criticize your sister but then you care about her after all- Ouch!"
The sweet maid admonished us and saved me from that torture. Later, a voice in the System informed us that we had arrived at our destination and that we had to get off.