Chapter 18:


Train in the Clouds

Chapter 1.6


Count Arnaud Floshery was a man of tall and sturdy build, who had participated 50 years earlier in the famous War of Succession as Captain of the Third Medical Assistance Squadron. He clearly liked to display the results of his participation, through all the medals he had attached to his uniform.

He was the first one I saw, once I got off the Vanker after Cleya. The mustachioed man kissed her hand warmly, then looked at me and motioned me to approach his imposing figure.

"Human, I've heard a lot about you. You know, we in the Medical Union are in close contact with the Royal Council." And he shook my hand with a mighty grip.

At the mention of the Council, I stiffened and my mind went back to the terrible figure I had made on the train. I managed, however, to shake off those worries and make a good impression.

"I see. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Floshery." I shook hands and then walked away. Whereupon, Cleya latched onto my arm, causing me to blush.

"It is equally a pleasure for me, Master Yamamura. And I see that you are also in the pleasant company of Miss Alston." He said, puffing up his chest a little.

"Yes," Cleya spoke for me, "We look forward to seeing what you have planned for this masquerade ball, Mr. Floshery."

"Let me just call the caregiver- Corina! Come here and escort these two precious little ones."

Promptly, a woman with blond hair, tied in two very long braids, and dark eyes came towards us, with quick step. She wore a dress with an osé-style décolletage and a pink pinafore on top.

"Corina at your disposal!" She squinted one eye, showing all her radiant personality, "Follow me, please. Oh- and please also wear these." She handed us two black masks, adorned on the sides with small decorations.

We wore the masks and let the girl lead us into the lavish mansion, which already seemed to be teeming with people. Outside, small groups were gathered to converse, while from inside the building came sweet music.

Once inside, we immediately found ourselves trapped in a sea of people, dancing close together. The room was huge and a large chandelier, even larger than the one in the Alston mansion, reigned over the ceiling. Intricate stairs led to the top of the room, where a silver-haired girl sat, holding a large fan.

'Silver hair... Mivrea-san!' I thought immediately and took a step forward to go towards her, but Cleya blocked me.

"Heiji-kun, where do you think you're going? We still have to go to-"

"There's Mivrea-san up there!" I affirmed, out of breath, "I'd like to go talk to her."

She looked down and bit her lip for a second. Then, she released her grip from my arm and allowed me to move freely.

".. That's fine, but come back here later, please." She said, in a semi-spoken voice. Then she disappeared into the crowd and our eyes lost sight of each other.

Without delay, I began to move between the couples clinging to each other, unconcerned with their complaints in case I stepped on their toes or ruined their dress. The further I went, the tighter the space became and it was harder to avoid annoying someone.

After struggling and getting complaints from at least ten people, I grabbed onto the handlebars of the spiral staircase and climbed with heavy steps, trying to get some distance from the people coming down.

I reached the top and there I saw her: a dark princess dress, a tiara on her straight, silver hair and those golden eyes, not completely hidden behind the mask.

"Mivrea-san!" I called to her. She didn't answer because the music was loud. So, I called her louder.

"Who dares interrupt me?" She jumped up and stopped moving her fan, but I didn't recognize her tone of voice very well. It was similar but not the same.

"Mivrea-san, it's me, 'stupid human' Heiji." I said, stepping closer. "Jeez, you always disappear."

She made a confused face, wrinkling her fine eyebrows. "What are you talking about? Look-"

"I thought it would be hard to find you in such a big place, but instead-" I said blushing, but was interrupted by the noble.

"I'm not Mivrea, heavens! I'm Guinevere, her older sister." She almost shouted, "Enough of this. I'm here waiting for my date."

"Huh...?" I widened my eyes, "Sister.."

"Rather, I'd really like to know where that spoiled child has got to as well. Our father is furious, I bet someone will forcefully take her back to the Palace soon. My goodness!"

'Ah right. To catch on the train, she had escaped from the castle.' I recalled at that moment, grieving for my mistake.

"I'm sorry. It's just that you're so similar.." I apologized, with a surrendered face. "May I ask you a question, Guinevere-sama?"

"Certainly, human." And she began to air herself again as she spoke.

"Why did Mivrea-san run away?"

She looked around. "Well, I wouldn't want to talk about it with all these people around. You never know. Come on, let's go somewhere more secluded."

I followed her until we reached a doorway, which she opened wide. It was the entrance to another large ballroom, with large windows from which you could clearly see the sunset.

Once the woman arrived in front of one of the windows, she stopped and began to speak hastily.

"You see, let's say there was some discussion in the palace. She's not exactly the nicest person-and you may have noticed that. Let's say that she's a bit of the black sheep of the family, because, you see, there are eight of us and each one has reached rather important positions. For example, Kujo, the eldest son, rules a certain part of Kurrmur, one of the western parts of the Empire, and so on. She, on the other hand, is too stubborn and spoiled to have such privileges.

"Being so, she is often ignored. I feel sad to say this, but we avoid carrying on important meetings with her around. This behavior of ours has made her a loner in a way.

"Anyway, back to the main reasons for her running away.... It had happened on her 16th birthday. She had been summoned to our father's office, and she was excited because, she told me, she felt she might have finally gotten a privilege. Our father, however, summoned her to tell her that the age had come for her to find a noble mate, to whom she could marry later, and that she would have probably never received this privilege.

"She went into a rage, but restrained herself in front of our father, whom she so highly esteems. She ran out of the room and I followed her. I heard her crying, but I didn't go to reassure her, because that had been a decision of all of us, who are part of a second council, assigned to matters of security and organization of the territory.

"That night, she argued with all of us and blamed us for always treating her badly. We tried to be reasonable but she just wouldn't hear of it and even broke a plate. Our father found out about it and got angry; the next day, he went to her room to give her her punishment, but she was already gone."

I listened carefully to her words and did not dare to interrupt her. When she finished, however, I hesitantly stepped forward.

"She must have suffered a lot." I said, "But I believe that despite her arrogance and her little vices, she is a girl with a heart of gold who doesn't back down in the face of trouble and who deserves something more. You know, she has helped me several times. The only thing I don't understand is..."

"Human, attaching yourself to a girl like that, what are you thinking? What's that twinkle in your eye? You..."

"I like Mivrea-san." I affirmed, convinced. (Initially, I couldn't believe my own words.) "I don't know how, I don't know why, I just know that I have these feelings and, even now, I want to find her."

".. When was the last time you saw her?" The woman suddenly asked, biting her lip.

"Will you make her return to the royal palace if I tell you?" I asked cautiously.

"I don't want to wrong you, but...she is a noblewoman who is destined to marry a young Earl our father found for her. And you will take care of other matters if you do well in the final trials. So get out of this happy world you've created for yourself."

An awkward silence took place between our almost completely darkened figures as the sun went down and the shadows changed shape.

"I'm sorry, Miss Guinevere, but I will not give you any information regarding Princess Mivrea." I announced, with a small bow. "And please do not report what I said to the Sovereign."

"I don't know. I can't promise that." She replied solemnly, then walked away. Her heavy footsteps created an echo in the giant, empty, silent room. The only thing that reconnected us to the others were the distant voices and muffled music.

I stood alone for a while, completely red: I thought back to the words that had just come out of my mouth.

"What a figure!" I crucified, my hands in my hair. "I'm a fool..."

I quickly walked out, acting like a dork, and, after a while, I managed to find Cleya, who was sipping a drink from a cup.

"Heiji!" She noticed me and walked over to me. "You came at just the right time."

"What do you mean?"

She walked over to me and put her hands behind my neck, then quickly clasped her body to mine. "Heiji-kun, several people will be leaving the hall for some event held outside. They're also going to test something new: it's basically things that ka-boom in the air and then lots of colors come out."

"O-ok, I know what you mean. But why put yourself so close to me?"

"It's the last dance of the night. Please dance with me." She pleaded with certain big, sparkling eyes that made me nod. I didn't want to make her sad.

The music started: it was a sweet melody that, as it went on, increased its intensity until it became a music full of passion and feeling, that would bind even the most conflicting souls.

We danced, in the center of the room, in the middle of that sea of people, who occasionally scrutinized me and observed my abilities. At first, we were uncoordinated and Cleya blushed with embarrassment several times. I took her hand after a while and she seemed to enjoy it very much, but I enjoyed it too and forgot for a while what had happened before.

But I didn't know that the torture waltz had just begun. And she was beginning to drag me along, like a puppet on a string.

Konoko Asada
Train in the Clouds

Train in the Clouds