Chapter 11:

Be Still, My Heart (Part 2)

The Curious Case of Clemsey

Dear Clemsey,

I hope you are doing fine. The view of autumn Cypressias are a sight to behold! However, my dear friend Clemse, I am writing to you now, with regards to a particular matter. A job at the Royal Court of Stussa, was vacant for a good period of time. I cannot go into exact details in this letter, but one thing I can assure you is that, an Assistant Archivist position at the E. Stussa Depository will help you find your parents.

I already put in a word for you. It will not guarantee you the position, but it will at least clear you off any possible suspicions. I know how you feel about Stussa, but throw it out the window and think about your priorities.

See you the soonest. Good luck.

Your Friend, 

Ash Mashima

Farrence folded the letter, following the direction of its creases and handed it back to me. Somehow, the paper suddenly felt heavier. “The Mashima family, they used to be your neighbors right? But if I’m remembering it correctly… they left Alcione and moved to Stussa when you were young. I didn’t know you still connect with their son.”

“Oh yes, Ashke is a very close friend of mine. I haven’t seen him for a long time though, but we keep tabs of each other’s lives through letters. He’s the one who gifted me this.” I said, while pointing at the round, tinted spectacles, covering my eyes. “Also, Ashke is a skilled mechanic, much like his father.”

“Say Clemsey, regarding that incomplete illustration of a machinery included in the Luminare account, you didn’t say a word, despite you knowing about it. Was it because you wanted to protect Ashke Mashima from being involved?”

I gave a single nod as a response. Though, I am still unsure at this point of the reason why King Auren was after the process of creating the Luminare stone, the option I was given, wasn’t really something that I am willing to take. Going to Port Lucia, on the other hand, would feel more like fleeing, rather than me, creating my own path.

It was the middle of the night and the streets were dark and empty. For a moment, the only sound I can hear are two horses pulling Farrence’s cart, simultaneously thumping loudly with the beating of my own heart. We are approaching an area of the Port Town, I haven’t been to. Once we arrived, I was led to a small water transportation, which I reckoned, could fit only about a party of five. Regardless, it was an alluring silhouette against the luminous sky.

“Clemsey, welcome aboard my humble ship! This is the plan—,“ Farrence exclaimed to me as she prepares to sail. “I will change the course of our voyage. We will go by the other border of Stussa, the area nearer to the highlands. It is quite far from the capital, but that route can keep you out of Alcione’s guard, at least. Tell me if you’re all in for it, then we shall set sail.”

“Yes, I am all in for it,” I replied with a firm conviction, holding back my overflowing emotions over the familiar motions of the sea underneath my feet. I sure am afraid, but the curiosity and excitement of discovering what might unfold before me is gradually taking over any semblances of fear. After about half a day’s worth of time, we have arrived at the border of Stussa, a massive kingdom, relatively close to Alcione.

“Farrence, I will forever be grateful for your help. I hope you could explain things to Uncle Gionne when he gets back. Please tell him not to worry too much. I will give everything that I can. I will find my parents. Once I settle down, I will send a telegram.” Farrence laughed at me for being melodramatic and embraced me tightly afterwards. The warmth reminded me of all the things I need to search for.

“I can imagine Gionne’s rage over this, but don’t worry, you know him… He will always stand by you. Also—“ she said, with her hands shaking me by the shoulders, “I think you should worry more about your tendency to get lost all the time. Take care of yourself Clemsey.”

I bid farewell to her at the border.

Cypressia, I thought as I inhaled in the scent of the air coming from the highlands. I really am back in Stussa, after a very long time.

I have been in this kingdom only about two times before. Despite it being close to Alcione, the Hajione Group doesn’t do much business in this land. For one, Stussa is already fairly advance in medical research and practices. It is a force to be reckoned with, in terms of resources, knowledge and military power. The Royal family, from what I know, is so well loved and respected by its people. The last time I was here, just years after my eye sight developed, was the first time that the Hajione Group was specifically needed in Stussa for a very urgent help. I was tasked with a heavy responsibility, yet, I let it slipped out of my hands. If I couldn’t face this nation before, as what Ashke stated in the letter, it was more of a shame on my part, far more than anything else.

Okay now, where do I start, I am never good at comprehending directions, I thought, letting out a deep breath. I put my spectacles down for a moment, so as to take in all the colours and vibes of this rural town. The majestic view of the highlands in bold shades of autumn, took my breath away. The atmosphere, enveloped in peaceful aura, I guess, was due to the fact that this is a border not frequently used for entry. From here, I have to get to Clauden, the capital city of Stussa.

“Good Sir,” I approached an old man, loading crates after crates of produce in his cart. “I just arrived in Stussa, I would like to ask if you know of a way to get to Clauden from here.”

“Oh, young Miss, I am headed to a town which is about half way to the capital. If you want, I can take you with me, then from there… uhm—“

“I will gladly take you up on the offer. Thank you very much!” I said, followed by a deep bow. The old man flushed a gentle smile and I helped with loading the rest of the crates up. I was asleep during the most of the journey. I was tired and hungry and exhausted of energy. I wanted to shout Ashke’s name, thinking that he might magically appear in front me. Luckily, I was able to find a small inn in the quaint town, where the good old man dropped me off. Half way to Clauden. I shall resume my journey at dawn. I buried my face in bed. The next thing I know, I woke up, in the wee hours of the morning, still yawning. On my way out of the inn, I saw only three people seated at the diner. Breakfast, I thought, would have to wait until I get to my destination.

I was walking towards the direction the inn keeper gave me, where I could find a transportation that would take me to the capital. But— this is weird. Behind, I could hear a constant pair of footsteps following me. Three people? No, just two… Two people with heavy footsteps. I didn’t bother to look back, I just started running as fast as I could. The footsteps behind me started running as well, and that’s when I knew, that danger really was after me. Screaming was an option, though, all of a sudden, I can’t seem to find my voice. I put my heavy bag in front of me, as I ran swiftly, passing through alleyways, turning at random corners, down on an unfamiliar lane of trees and shrubs and herbs, huh the woods? Ahh— I tripped on what seems to be a root of a tree. I fell on the ground. A huge man approached me with a smug on his face.

“You gave us such a hard time missy. There is no use running now. Word has it that you are a foreigner? Perhaps you have valuable items with—,” he stopped. His eyes, fixed on the left side of chest. My brooch…! Please no. He leaned down in front me, quickly snatched my brooch while I, at the same time, quickly threw on his face a pack of powdered medicinal herb, followed by everything in my bag that I could toss. As I motioned to escape, I gave his face, the hardest kick I could muster. It seemed as though I was trapped in a room and managed to beat a door open. I screamed for help. My mind, blurred with hunger and fatigue, I continued to move, with my left hand clutching the Luminare stone, until half of my body suddenly felt a sense of floating. Ahh cliff… I am falling… w-why is this such a familiar feeling?

My familiar feeling of falling came into a sudden halt. I felt a strong, tight grip around my stomach. The warmth that exudes from it, brought me back to reality, making me noticed that my right foot was the only connection I have with ground. I am on the edge of a cliff and someone managed to catch me before I fall. Everything that happened soon after, was played out in a dreamlike slow motion. The man, who caught me by the stomach, forcedly pulled me back. I felt the force of wind, blowing my hair over my face. My left foot made it back to the ground. The rest of my body followed. With my spectacles slightly down, I met his eyes as I was being tossed back away from the cliff. Green, a familiar deep green…, “Va—”, I whispered. Mid-flight, my right hand instinctively clutched his shirt, dragging him along with me. Someone from behind, cushioned our fall.

“Blanca, thanks for making it on time.”

“You look cool clutching at that broken fence and catching a falling lady by the stomach. Well that— was until she dragged you along with her.”

“yeah, yeah, the important thing is that she’s safe.”

“Ah—Thank… you..,” I managed to mutter in the midst of their conversation.

“Miss, just calm your breathing, my friend Lowen is taking care of those guys who are after you. You are safe now. You must be feeling giddy. After all, you skipped breakfast at the diner this morning.”

There was a moment of silence. There’s a sensation of blood rushing to my head. An intense gaze, pinned me to the ground. My right hand, by habit, found its way to the left side of my neck, where a scar is hidden underneath. Somehow, this motion became my calming ritual.

“Anyway—“, said the man who saved me. With one knee on the ground, and his arm, resting on the other, he leaned a bit closer. “I must say… this quite a surprise Miss Clemsey Akisa.”