Allison Volume 4 Chapter 4
By the time the bullet-ridden transcontinental carrying the corpses of Terreur and Ien crossed fully over the Iltoa Mountain Range and arrived at the hill country at the foot of the mountains, Wil and the others were fast asleep.
At the back of the first dining car, where the damage was least severe, the four of then had laid out sheets and mattresses from the crew’s sleeping car and fallen asleep in a row. Next to them was a basket of bread that they had emptied out for lunch and dinner, and bottles of jam and water.
Major Stork woke up three people. Allison alone was woken by Wil.
They were in a large train garage. The train was inside a long, narrow building. On the adjacent tracks was the steam locomotive, what had been taken apart for maintenance. It was dark outside. Lamps cast dull light from the ceiling, where steel frames were clearly visible.
“I’m terribly sorry for bringing you to a place like this. It would have been much too conspicuous if we were to pull into a station in this state, so I had the train brought to a military facility. My friends will take care of the rest. The four of you will be taken to a hotel by car. We are currently in a village at the foot of the western side of the Iltoa Mountain Range. It is a beautiful place with a rich history and tradition.”
After his explanation, Major Stork added,
“The village is called ‘Lillianne’.”
The four of them said goodbye to Major Stork, who remained on the scene, and were driven through the night by a man in a black suit, who was their guide. The car carrying their luggage followed.
Soon, the car arrived at the basement parking lot of a luxurious hotel in the center of town.
The four of them took an elevator and were led into rooms on the top floor of the building. They were assigned two rooms—one booked for Benedict and Wil, and the other booked for Allison and Fiona.
Allison was furious at the guide, but the guide—though taken aback—explained that he had only followed Major Stork’s orders.
“Let’s do what he says, Allison. Benedict’s hurt, and we all just want to get some sleep today.” Wil said, calming Allison. She shot him a glare, but eventually surrendered and followed Fiona into their room.
Soon after Benedict and Wil went to their luxurious room, a doctor visited them. Without a single prying question or attempt at idle chatter, he examined them both. He gave painkillers to Benedict, whose rib was cracked, and put disinfectant on Wil’s forehead before leaving.
Finally, Benedict and Wil were alone.
“I happen to be glad I’m not in the same room as Allison.” Wil said suddenly. Benedict, who was lying on his bed, looked at him.
“I have something very complicated to discuss.”
“That’s… unbelievable, Wil. But it’s not impossible.”
“I don’t want to let things end this way. Isn’t there something we can do? This is Sou Be-Il. You’re the only person I can count on.”
Benedict was silent.
“Hm… I might be able to work something out. I was planning to do it anyway. And as long as I can secure a good place tomorrow morning… but it’s still a dangerous plan. You know that, right?”
“I’m the only one who’s going to be in danger. And this is my first and last chance. If I don’t do this, everyone will walk away believing in a lie.”
Benedict was silent.
“…All right. I’ll take part in your plan.”
“Both Wil and that major! What are they thinking?!”
“Please, calm down, Allison.”
“This is outrageous! Stupid!”
“Please, Allison. There’s still another day left.”
“If things end like this, my plan’s going to be a total failure!”
“We’ll have to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“You’re right! But I’m just going to get some sleep tonight. This room looks expensive.”
* * *
The next morning.
“Let’s see. ‘The village of Lillianne was a royal vacation spot for the Royal Family of Iltoa in the Middle Ages, and first started with a single country house built by the lake. The name of the village comes from the daughter of the king of that time, who went on to become the wise and beloved Queen Lillianne’. And… ‘The brick buildings were the first to be placed under the protection of the Historic Architecture Protection Law after the rapid industrialization brought on by the industrial revolution. The clean waters flowing down from the Iltoa Mountain Range created fertile conditions for the land, and many locals harvest flowers from the outskirts of the village to use for perfumes. In early summer, the flowers come into full bloom all over the village, giving it the nickname of ‘Flower Town’.”
“It really is a beautiful town. It’s funny to think that we could only be here because of what happened yesterday… oh no!”
“I left my camera in my room… both cameras. What was I thinking?”
The car was moving down a road lined with brick buildings. Allison, Fiona, Wil, and Benedict were inside an expensive limousine. The driver was a man wearing a black suit and sunglasses. Because cars drove on the left side of the street in Sou Be-Il, the driver’s seat was on the right.
In the large back seats, separated by a pane of glass, were four large seats placed facing one another. On one seat was Allison, who was translating and reading out a tourists’ guide from the hotel into Roxchean, and Fiona, who had forgotten her cameras. Across from them were Wil and Benedict.
Allison was dressed much like the previous day, though her sweater was replaced by a leather jacket. She also had a small canvas bag placed gently on her lap. Fiona was wearing a long skirt and a white blouse, along with a cardigan. Wil, like the previous day, was in his school uniform with a new shirt. He was holding something that looked like a briefcase.
And as for Benedict—
“What is that outfit, Benedict?”
He was in uniform.
Benedict was dressed impeccably in a black Air Force uniform. His badge of rank was on his collar, and his medals shone proudly over his chest. Around his waist were his belt and holster. A large Air Force hat was on his lap. He stuck out like a sore thumb among his friends.
“Well, this is my formalwear…” Benedict replied. Fiona looked confused.
“So, where are we going?” Asked Allison.
“A beautiful place.”
“I can’t say yet…” Benedict trailed off. Allison and Fiona tilted their heads.
Wil was quietly watching the scenery outside. Brick houses passed by the windows.
The car left the village and drove along a hilly area covered in brown earth. They finally came to a stop at a park by a small lake. A dense layer of trees surrounded the water, and the sound of chirping birds accompanied the pleasant spring breeze.
There stood a lone stone building. Through the large arched entrance and its open doors, the first things that came into view were benches lined up on either side and an altar at the very front. In front of the white sculptures shaped like goddesses and angels were candle holders of gold and silver.
“It’s beautiful.” Fiona gasped, looking around. Soon, Benedict followed after her as he fixed his hat. Wil and Allison joined them.
“It is relieving that you are happy. It is a park that is also a chapel, which are common in this area. There are festivals and music parties here sometimes, as well. In the summer, it is even more beautiful because there are many, many flowers.”
“It’s beautiful now, too. It’s a kind of beauty you don’t really see in the mountains.”
“There is no one here today, this place is a place where many people come during a holiday. I was born in a family that is not very faithful, so I only come here for things like this, but…” Benedict trailed off.
“Things like what?” Fiona quickly asked. Benedict put a hand to the brim of his hat and hid his face.
“That is… you will know soon.”
Benedict went back to the limousine and asked the driver to wait in the car.
That was when another car arrived. Driven by another man in sunglasses, it was an expensive vehicle—and from it emerged a bespectacled, middle-aged soldier. Major Stork. Like the day he boarded the train, he was dressed in a dark brown Royal Army uniform. He was not carrying a suitcase.
“Good day, everyone. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thanks to you! So what are you doing here?” Allison asked sarcastically.
“Me? I was invited by Major Carr.”
“Huh.” Allison grumbled, shrugging.
“There are some things I’d like to report to you first, if that’s all right by Major Carr.” Major Stork said. Benedict gave him permission, and Stork began to explain.
Gauthier Terreur and Thomas Ien, who planned to smuggle weapons into Sou Be-Il and go into hiding, caused the murders in the train to speed up the journey, but they were abandoned by the accomplice who noticed the investigation and killed themselves. Their bodies would be taken into Roxchean custody. That was the information that would be reported to the public.
The passengers who remained at the supply base were all safe, but the trip was cancelled and they returned to Roxche via a train that had been dispatched from the East. The Hero, who remained on the train with Terreur, and the people who remained to interpret were all safe, the report would also say.
“The deaths of the conductors and cabin crew will be reported as the actions of Ien alone.”
Major Stork’s tone was exceedingly mechanical. Wil interpreted for him, sounding equally unemotional.
Fiona, who had been silently staring at Major Stork, met his eyes for a moment. But she said nothing. Major Stork continued.
“On the Sou Be-Il side, we are continuing our internal investigation into the units and officers involved. That is all I can say about this incident. I’m sure that the right punishments will be handed out soon, out of the public’s sight. And for your information, in this particular case, I do not exist.”
“I have no intention of prying any further about that.” Benedict said quietly. “After all, Major Stork of the Royal Army does not exist on this continent. Just like Mr. Herman. And so the truth is lost, they say.”
“Of course.” Major Stork nodded. “Finally, everyone—although I suppose Major Carr Benedict of the Royal Air Force, who is a citizen of Sou Be-Il, does not count—all citizens of Roxche must return to the East within two days. I’ve arranged for an aeroplane to take you to Green Island tomorrow morning.”
“So we don’t get to see the capital after all.”
“That’s a shame. Although I suppose we can’t do much about it.”
Allison and Wil sighed.
“I’m terribly sorry about this. But I will find a way to invite you back to our nation—to the capital, Sfrestus. I can’t say when, but please let me one day give you a final token of my gratitude. I am truly thankful for your courage and heroic actions. That is all for my report.”
“Shall we?” Asked Benedict. Fiona asked if they would be looking inside the chapel.
“Of course. That is why we came here. That is also why I called Major Stork to come here.”
“It is an honor.” Major Stork chimed in.
“What do you mean?” Asked Allison.
“Hm? Haven’t you heard—”
“Everyone! Inside, please!” Benedict cried, cutting off Major Stork.
“What’s going on?”
Gently pushing the confused Fiona inside, Benedict entered the chapel. Allison and Wil followed them. Major Stork instructed his driver to remain on standby, and joined the others.
A betrothal oath.
It was a ceremony observed by nearly all couples in Sou Be-Il. Two people who decided to marry would visit a chapel or a church and seal their betrothal with a kiss. Although it was perfectly fine for a couple to go alone, some invited friends and family to serve as witnesses.
“I want to ask to receive your permission to go through this ceremony together with you.”
Benedict’s explanation was so long-winded that it took a little time for Fiona to understand.
“Saying that, I wish to formalize—er, formally propose to you. That is why I carried you here. Do you understand me, Fi?”
Fiona, who finally comprehended the situation, looked up at Benedict’s embarrassed, sweaty face.
“Truthfully, I wished to formally propose to you when the train went to Sfrestus, but things happened like this… I’m sorry. And I would like you to answer.”
“What should I do?” Fiona asked. Benedict’s response was simple.
“If ‘yes’, please kiss me. If ‘no’, please kick me.”
Fiona closed her eyes and quietly raised her face.
Benedict slowly leaned down. His face drew near to hers.
“May the divine protection of the God of Love be upon us forevermore.”
He said in Bezelese, then, in Roxchean—
“It is very great that the God of Love watches us, so please let him always.”
They kissed before the altar.
Wil and Allison stood side-by-side at the bench to the right. Wil was watching them quietly, his briefcase under his left arm. Allison put a hand on his shoulder and whispered in awe.
To the left stood Major Stork. He took off his hat and held it before his chest as he watched two people with a gentle smile on his face.
Two people parted lips and opened their mouths in unison.
“Please, speak first.” Benedict said, yielding. Fiona chuckled. Tears fell from her eyes from the laugh, but she did not seem to care.
“It might be difficult to convince the villagers.”
“I will do my best.” Benedict replied.
“Thank you. It’s your turn.”
“What I want to say is that there might be many hard things in front of us, but we two should win together. Something that common. And…”
“I will study Roxchean more.”
“Oh? You don’t have to.”
At Benedict’s question, Fiona laughed—even through the tears in her eyes—and answered.
“Because I love endlessly listening to your awful Roxchean.”
“Congratulations. It is an honor to have been invited.” Major Stork said to Benedict. Benedict also expressed his gratitude.
Allison, whose hand was gripping Wil’s jacket, finally let go and turned to the expressionless Wil.
“What do you think?”
“Hm? About what?”
“About the ceremony? Like, were you moved, or do you feel happy for them, or…”
“Oh, right… yeah. I do.”
“What kind of an answer is that?”
Wil half-ignored Allison’s rage and looked at Major Stork.
Major Stork walked up to Benedict and Fiona.
“Again, thank you for inviting me. Although I suppose you won’t be announcing this for a while yet, I’d like to express my hope that the two of you will become a new bridge connecting East and West. Well, if you’ll excuse me.”
With that, Major Stork bowed courteously.
“Thank you.” Said Fiona. “And I hope your duties are lessened from now on.”
For some reason, Benedict did not interpret her words into Bezelese. Major Stork raised his head and turned round at Wil and Allison, his blue eyes narrowing.
“And the two of you—be well. I doubt we’ll ever meet again. The past two days must have been awful for you, but it was a fun time for me. Truly.”
Wil did not answer. Allison lightly waved.
“Goodbye, Mr. Weirdo Major.”
“Thank you. Excuse me.”
Major Stork stood upright with a smile. He began walking down the aisle toward the exit.
Watching him leave, Wil whispered under his breath.
“‘The departing knight’… or not?”
Allison turned to Wil, confused. Wil noticed her gaze and replied.
“Allison, just stay put and watch.”
“…? Watch what?”
Wil ignored her and walked up to the altar.
Benedict took Fiona’s hand and stepped over to the side.
From before the altar, Wil looked straight ahead at the departing Major Stork.
Then, he slowly reached into the briefcase he had under his left arm. Soon, the clasp came undone and his right hand emerged.
In his grip was a handgun. It was large, with a thin wooden grip and a magazine equipped in front of it. The chassis was complex and the barrel thin.
Wil cocked the gun and disarmed the safety. He placed his left hand over his right and slowly raised the gun. The briefcase fell to the ground.
“Soon, I’ll know the answer. Did I find the truth, or not? I’ll be using the gun you lent me, Ms. Travas.” Wil muttered to himself.
The gun was trained directly at the man’s back. Wil’s index finger touched the trigger.
He pulled the trigger.
A quiet gunshot echoed through the chapel.
The gun did not recoil very much. No shell casing was ejected.
The bullet hit Major Stork on his right shoulder as he walked toward the entrance, then bounced off him and fell to the floor. It rolled under a bench and disappeared. It was a training round made of hard rubber.
Major Stork turned and stared at Wil, whose aim was still trained on him.
“It certainly must have.”
They spoke, making full eye contact.
Allison looked very confused. Fiona’s jaw had dropped in shock. Benedict was gravely watching Wil and Benedict, who were standing on the aisle.
The doors behind Major Stork opened, and the two drivers rushed inside. They were both carrying the same military-issue automatic handguns as Stork. Silencers were equipped on the jutting barrels.
“So they weren’t enemies after all.” Benedict mumbled under his breath.
“Colonel!” One man cried, charging at Wil and taking aim. “Damn you!”
“Do not shoot.” Major Stork ordered tersely.
The men in sunglasses immediately froze. Allison also stopped in the midst of reaching into the bag around her waist.
“There is nothing to be upset about here. Both of you, please wait in the cars. And make sure no one enters this chapel. That is an order.”
The men did not retort. They holstered their guns, glared at Wil—who was still aiming at Major Stork—and obediently returned to their cars.
The doors closed, and the men left their presence.
“‘Colonel’. So you were ranked higher than you claimed, ‘Major Stork’.” Wil commented, finally lowering his gun. He could not sound any more indifferent.
“That’s a Sou Be-Il gun. And an excellent model, at that. Might I ask how you came by it?”
“I’ll explain later.”
“Thank you. Now, Wilhelm. If memory serves, were you not the one who told me that we must not point a gun at someone without good reason?”
“Yes. And I’m sorry. Did it hurt?”
“Very much. I believe you’ll at least explain?”
“Yes. There’s something I’d like to tell you.”
“I’m all ears.”
“Several things have been bothering me.”
Standing with a gun in his right hand was Wil. Directly ahead of him, on the aisle, was Major Stork. To Wil’s left, at the very front row of the benches, was Allison. On the other side were Fiona and Benedict. The four people remained where they were as they listened to what Wil had to say. Benedict struggled to interpret his words for Fiona.
“First is the matter of Mr. Terreur’s suicide. Mr. Ien only learned of your identity after overhearing us speaking in the dining room. But how could Mr. Terreur have known, when he had locked himself in the VIP cabin all along? Isn’t suicide much too rash a decision? Of course, without any decisive evidence, I can’t do much more than ask these questions. Maybe Mr. Terreur’s suicide really was just a rash choice on his part.”
“I see. Is that all?” Asked Major Stork, gently rubbing his right shoulder.
“No. My second point is about you. You knew much too well about the attack patterns of the people you called ‘them’. You somehow knew that they would attack from behind when we reached a deserted stretch of the mountains, and that they would try and drop the train into the valley to make it look like an accident. And you even managed to pick out exactly the things we needed from Mr. Terreur’s unmarked crates. For someone who claimed that he needed more time before he could arrest ‘them’, you were too knowledgeable.”
Wil paused there. Major Stork gave him as look as though waiting for more. Wil continued.
“In addition to that, there’s the method you used to thwart ‘their’ plans—that is, killing the conductors and cabin crew to speed up the train and taking everyone to the supply base to split the train. It seems to me much too risky and improvised. What if someone had ended up witnessing a murder, and caused a commotion? In fact, that’s exactly what happened in the end, with Allison and myself. Your actions did not look as though they followed a carefully prepared plan. If your goal really was to arrest Mr. Terreur before he fell into ‘their’ hands, you could have sent someone to do just that covertly before we left the buffer zone and entered the mountain range. Then ‘they’ would end up assaulting a train that does not carry their target, wasting their time. Of course, they would still cause the incident to cover up evidence, but in that case, all you have to do is report that Mr. Terreur was arrested in the lowlands while on the run alongside ‘them’. Wouldn’t that be a surer method?”
“That would mean the deaths of over forty people.” Major Stork said reproachfully. Wil agreed and continued.
“Then let’s change perspectives.”
“Here’s an assumption. What if, Major Stork, your boarding the train was not for the purpose of arresting Mr. Terreur?”
“…Then why do you suppose I boarded?”
“To kill him with absolute certainty.”
“Let me continue with this assumption as a basis. I thought about Mr. Terreur’s death. What were the pros and cons of his being murdered on the train? First, the cons. The biggest problem it causes is that you can no longer force a confession out of him. In other words, you cannot arrest the people who cooperated with Mr. Terreur.”
“And thanks to that, I’m in quite a bit of hot water.”
“And the pros—one is that you can no longer force a confession out of Mr. Terreur and arrest the people who cooperated with him.”
Major Stork was silent.
“If Mr. Terreur dies, those behind the execution of this incident and the people behind them will not be arrested. The ‘scandal that shakes the entire military’ that Benedict talked about will never happen. If stopping an earth-shaking scandal that may destabilize the currently peaceful state of affairs is more important than punishing those who moved to protect Mr. Terreur, this is incredibly beneficial. And there’s more.”
Wil paused and waited for Benedict to finish interpreting for Fiona. Once Benedict stopped,
“Should I take over?” Allison offered.
“No. You listen carefully to what Wil has to say, Allison.”
“Really?” Allison mumbled, and tilted her head. Wil took his eyes off her and turned back to Major Stork.
“The other benefit is that the smuggling Mr. Terreur partook in with the Sou Be-Il military until now can be concealed forever. Even before this incident, Mr. Terreur had some connections to the Sou Be-Il military. Undoubtedly he must have been selling weapons and military intel. There must be quite a few people in the Sou Be-Il military connected to him—in other words, people who used him. If ‘they’ had gotten their hands on Mr. Terreur, they might have cooperated with the people I just mentioned and demanded that they assist in attacking Roxche. But with Mr. Terreur’s death, the evidence is no more. Even if you arrested Mr. Terreur, there is no death penalty in Sou Be-Il. You would have had no choice but to keep him alive. Then he would spill anything he can think of to keep himself safe.”
“Please, wait a moment. You mean to say that Mr. Terreur had connections to our military since before the end of the war?” Asked Major Stork. Wil’s answer was immediate.
“Well… I believe I explained otherwise before you fired the anti-tank rifle. This was the first time Mr. Terreur acted to betray his own country.”
Wil shook his head.
“That was a lie. I’m certain of it. I asked you on purpose because I was curious to hear what you would say. It was a trap of sorts.”
“…And you have proof that convinces you of that?”
“Not here, no. But I have it in my head. Concrete evidence.”
“Oh?” Major Stork said, amused. Wil paused before diving into one long sentence.
“I’ve once illegally entered Sou Be-Il by flying over the Lutoni River on Mr. Terreur’s aeroplane, which was at Mr. Terreur’s secret airstrip near the eastern border of the Republic of Raputoa. It was very simple.”
Major Stork’s expression faltered for the first time. The moment his eyebrows furrowed, Allison piped up.
“Oh, right! For your information, I did the piloting.”
Major Stork turned to Allison.
“I see. It makes sense now.”
Then, to Benedict. Benedict spoke.
“There aren’t many civilians in that area, on both sides of the river. It must have been rather easy to smuggle things across if he used an aeroplane in the middle of the night. And to add, I also brought these two back to Roxche with incredible ease.”
“Thanks for that, by the way. I had no idea it would be so easy to cross the Lutoni.” Allison added.
“What… what are you talking about?” Asked Major Stork. Wil responded.
“We’re talking about the method Mr. Terreur used to smuggle things over the border. As I said earlier, we once stole one of Mr. Terreur’s aeroplanes. I’m sure you knew about the smugglings as well, Major. But you lied because that was a truth that must not be revealed, correct?”
Major Stork did not answer. But his silence was as good as acknowledgement.
“Let’s continue with the assumption. If your goal was Mr. Terreur’s death, and your mission was to kill him, what were your options? And if you had to make it look like an accident to make it easier to cover up? You just have to cause an accident. An ‘unfortunate derailment’, for instance.” Wil said, using Major Stork’s words. “I have more questions about you. Mr. Terreur and his bodyguard didn’t seem very suspicious of you. That bothered me greatly. Mr. Terreur was going on the run. If the military were to assign him an officer for the purpose of ‘security detail’, it would only be natural for him to be displeased. But he easily accepted your idea of splitting the train to quickly head for the foot of the mountains. You said that that was to make it easier for the train to escape ‘their’ clutches, correct? But considering the relationship between Mr. Terreur and ‘them’, it’s a rather strange stance for him to have taken. But things change if we assume that you were one of ‘them’ all along. You were a member of the group assisting Mr. Terreur’s flight—is what he believed, at the very least. He thought you were one of the facilitators of the scheme. Even when you split the train, all you had to tell him was that there was a change of plans. Mr. Terreur had no way of confirming your claims, and he wouldn’t oppose you, either.”
“And that must have been at least a half-truth. You did not board the train to thwart ‘their’ plans. You had made contact with ‘them’, pretended to sympathize with their cause, and joined their plot. That’s when the military contact known as ‘Major Stork’ was created. His role was to take over the train before the attack and assist ‘them’. That explains how you knew about Mr. Terreur’s cargo, and how you knew so much about the way ‘they’ would try to attack.”
Major Stork was silent.
“However, the goals you and ‘they’ had in mind were completely different. Your true mission was to kill Mr. Terreur and thwart their plans. That way, they would be discouraged from ever thinking to do such a thing again. At the same time, you silenced Mr. Terreur and prevented a scandal from getting out, effectively preventing the people from distrusting the military, and preventing a blow to military morale. It also neatly erases the fact that Sou Be-Il had been dealing with Mr. Terreur since before the war ended.”
“Here’s yet another assumption. What were you planning to do in order to achieve that goal? This is my hypothesis. You originally had no intention of killing the conductors and crew—the people in charge of the trip—to create a commotion and do something so risky and time-consuming as splitting the train at the supply base. You had no need to do so, and it was, in fact, better that you didn’t. All you had to do, really, was ride the train and kill Mr. Terreur at your leisure, then kill the engineers or set up explosives to derail the train. In other words, you just had to cause an accident before ‘they’ attacked. One or two missing corpses wouldn’t be a big deal in a train accident. But the missing corpse wouldn’t be Mr. Terreur’s—it would be yours. The man called Major Stork would die in the accident and disappear from ‘their’ sight forever.”
“In other words, I was planning to kill all the innocent passengers on that train for the sake of this supposed mission?” Asked Major Stork.
“Yes.” Wil answered firmly.
“A horrifying thought.”
“Yes. But as ‘they’ thought, this is the simplest plan, and the easiest to cover up. The phrase ‘unfortunate accident’ can cover everything.”
“But you did not choose that option. You split the train to try and outrun the attack, and you fought off an unexpected assault. And finally, you killed Mr. Terreur while disguising it as a suicide. I’m sure you were planning to kill Mr. Ien as well, in one way or another.”
“Your hypothesis leaves one question, I’m afraid. How in the world did I kill Mr. Terreur?”
“The door to the VIP cabin was sturdy and locked. You were the only person who could have entered.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Ien and Mr. Terreur were the only ones who had the keys.”
“Yes. Mr. Ien had his key on his belt, and Mr. Terreur’s was on his table. That’s how you set up a scene that implied that you could not have killed him. But the answer is simple. You also had a key. The VIP cabin key that the conductor was holding.”
“That was why you took the trouble of throwing Mr. Welch’s body off the train. To hide the fact that his bundle of keys had gone missing. Of course, you took care to keep your hands off anyone else’s possessions. You wanted to emphasize that the murderer was not after their valuables.” Wil declared. He stopped for a moment, perhaps to try and read Major Stork’s reaction. The man, however, silently waited for Wil to continue.
“This is all just my conjecture. But if it’s true, why did you go through the trouble to do something so risky? I thought about it, and concluded that it was because of sudden, unforeseen circumstances. What could it be, then?” Wil asked, and turned to the girl with blond hair and blue eyes.
“Hm? What?” Allison asked, amused. Wil did not reply, instead turned to Major Stork.
“Man.” Allison grumbled. As Major Stork watched, a faint smile rose to his face. Wil looked at him and finally spoke.
“The answer I found was ‘Allison’.”
Major Stork quietly stared at Wil.
Allison turned to Wil, confused.
“What? What about me?”
This time, he gave her an answer.
“I’m saying that you might be the reason why Major Stork suddenly did something so risky and unplanned.”
“Huh? What do you mean? Why would he?”
“I’ll explain, so listen carefully.”
“All right. I will.” Allison nodded.
Wil looked at Benedict and Fiona. Benedict gave him a silent nod. Wil turned back to Major Stork.
“You too, Major.”
“Please, tell me.” Major Stork replied softly but tersely.
“This has been bothering me all this time. I spoke to Allison and Benedict about it on the way, but I still didn’t understand. Why didn’t you kill Allison?”
“You spared her. I’m talking about early yesterday morning, when she witnessed you murdering Mr. Welch. You had the chance to erase evidence by killing me and Allison then and there. But doesn’t it strike you as odd that a killer wouldn’t kill the witnesses? We were in the observation car at the time, and no one had seen us there. All you had to do was drop Allison from the roof when she went after you, and kill me in the same way afterwards. It would have been so simple. And it would have been easy to make it seem like an accident—we could have easily fallen from the observation car.”
Then, Wil paused. Major Stork said nothing.
“Why didn’t you kill us? Because you didn’t want to. Then why not?”
“Because he fell for me?” Allison made the same joke as the previous day.
“Sorry, Allison. Could you stay quiet for a bit?” Wil asked immediately. Allison shot him a furious glare. But she quickly waved lightly.
“All right. Keep going. I’m curious too.”
“I considered many possibilities, but there’s only one reason I could think of that was enough for you to spare Allison—even though you were heartless enough to kill innocent people for the sake of your mission. It’s because you knew Allison. You’ve met her in the past, haven’t you?”
Fiona, who was listening through Benedict, cried out in a moment of epiphany. She froze with her mouth agape. Benedict looked at her, confused.
Major Stork maintained his silence.
“What? I’ve met this major before, Wil?” Asked Allison. Wil replied, his eyes never once leaving Major Stork.
“Yeah. That’s right.”
Allison blankly fell into thought.
“Hmm… Sorry, but I just don’t remember. Was it at the joint training session at the end of last year? He’s not the captain with glasses who showed us around, right? Or maybe… did we meet him when we crossed the Lutoni last year?”
“There weren’t any joint training sessions before that.”
“I know. It was before that.”
“But I couldn’t have met someone from Sou Be-Il before that. Other than Grandma.”
As Allison floundered in confusion, Wil gestured lightly.
“What is it?”
Allison made her way over to Wil, who stood in the aisle.
“What is it?”
“Look at him carefully, Allison. You just might remember.” Wil said, pointing at Major Stork.
Allison shook her head.
“I’ve seen him a lot over the past two days, but I don’t think I know him, Wil.”
“Really…? Then again, it’s been years now. And you wrote to me saying that you forgot his face, too. And there aren’t any photos of him left… I guess it’s not surprising.”
Allison, who had forced herself to listen all the way through Wil’s mumblings, shook her hands.
“Man, I don’t know! I give up! I surrender! Who is he? Did I meet him at the Future House? Was he our teacher at school? No, wait. Someone like that wouldn’t be in Sou Be-Il.”
Fiona was pale. She tightly grabbed Benedict’s arm.
“It’s all right. Leave it to Wil.” Benedict whispered. Fiona looked up at him.
“Will it really be okay?”
“Yes. It will.” Benedict replied quietly.
“So what’s the answer? C’mon, Wil. I said I surrender.”
“All right.” Wil nodded, and continued. “It might be hard to hear, but please brace yourself, Allison. Remember how you came as fast as you could, but Grandma had already passed away? Just like back then.”
Allison frowned and looked Wil in the eye. And she took a breath as though about to ask something. But,
That was all she said.
“Let me tell you, then. Major Stork is—”
Wil opened his mouth, turning to Major Stork. The latter refused to looks away, standing tall as he waited for Wil.
“—the subordinate who killed your father on Green Island and fled to Sou Be-Il.”
“What?” Allison gasped.
“There’s just no other explanation.” Wil replied. Allison’s face turned blank, as though she had just woken up. And several seconds later,
“Oh. I see…”
Solemnly, she took out a revolver from the bag around her waist.
“So that’s it…”
Firmly holding the gun in both hands, she pointed it at Major Stork. Her aim was almost frighteningly accurate.
“Thanks for telling me something so important.”
As she slowly hooked her finger onto the trigger,
Wil’s left hand firmly grasped the top of the gun. Revolvers had the weakness of being unable to fire if the cylinder was held in place.
“It’s too early to be pulling the trigger, Allison.” Wil advised.
“Really?” Allison asked. She looked as calm as ever. Major Stork, facing down the muzzle, was also just as calm.
“Where did you get the gun?” Asked Major Stork.
“It’s mine.” Benedict responded in Wil’s place. Allison chimed in.
“Wil gave it to me before we left the hotel. In case we got into a dangerous situation, he said.”
Major Stork turned to Wil and muttered under his breath.
“Don’t shoot!” Fiona cried. “Don’t shoot him, Allison! I know how you feel! But you can just ask Wil to hit him! That’s enough, isn’t it?”
Allison turned and looked at Fiona. Fiona met her gaze, her eyes filled with quiet determination.
“Let me get a hit in, too.”
“If Wil tells me to shoot, I will.”
She turned back to Major Stork.
“Benedict! You have to stop her!” Fiona pleaded. But Benedict shook his head.
“No, I cannot.”
“Because Wil’s magic is not finished.” Benedict replied.
With his grip still on the cylinder, Wil spoke again.
“You knew too much about Roxche, Major Stork.”
Fiona looked up in surprise. She could understand him—Wil was speaking in Roxchean.
“Do you remember? When we were shooting at the armored railcar with the anti-tank rifle. Just before we fired the third shot, I was worried about the shaking of the train.”
Major Stork did not answer. He instead silently listened to Wil speaking in Roxchean.
“At that moment, you gave me the example of game 3 of the Kaashi shooting competition. It was the perfect piece of advice. Thank you. And another instance—Allison had spotted the locomotive coming up behind us, but she and I were speaking in Roxchean. You suddenly interrupted very loudly, demanding to know what we were saying. Almost like you understood what we were saying. That’s how you realized that we were being chased. You had no choice but to force yourself into the conversation.”
Major Stork said nothing.
“Perhaps you were chosen as the contact for this mission because you spoke Roxchean. Mr. Terreur and Mr. Ien seemed to have no idea. I’m sure that was very useful for you, as you could listen in on secret conversations without being suspected of a thing.”
“I don’t know if it was on Lestki Island or on the train, but the moment you saw Allison, you must have been flabbergasted. And you must have desperately begun to think. How could you safely assassinate Mr. Terreur, shake off the pursuers, and protect Allison from harm? And you solved all these problems.”
“I’m very thankful to you. I’m extremely grateful. If not for you, I would have been caught up in some petty conspiracy and killed. Me, Benedict, Fiona, and most importantly, Allison.”
“And there’s more I have to thank you about. Thank you for letting me meet Allison. If not for you, we never would have encountered one another at the Future House. I grew up constantly moved by her courage and leadership. And I still am. And last summer, and at the end of last year, she pulled me into two amazing experiences.”
“Thank you. I’m truly happy that I could meet you.”
Major Stork, who had been silently looking into Allison’s eyes throughout Wil’s words of thanks, replied tersely.
“This joke has gone too far.”
Of course, he was speaking Roxchean. Allison’s eyes glinted.
“Wil, can I shoot him now?”
“Wait a little more, Allison.” Wil replied. His hand was still holding the cylinder.
“All right.” Allison nodded.
Wil looked at Major Stork again.
“I am not joking in the least. And at this moment, I am in awe of you. You truly are incredible.”
Not only Major Stork, but Allison and Fiona frowned at Wil’s words.
“You are amazing. Never letting the truth escape your own mouth for the sake of your position and responsibilities. What fortitude.”
“Are you… all right?” Allison asked, concerned about Wil’s excitement. Wil replied that he was, and returned to his praises.
“Really. Both of you. You and Allison. I am moved.”
Still holding Allison’s gun in his left hand, Wil took a small step toward Major Stork.
And, meeting his blue eyes, Wil quietly bowed.
“It is an honor to meet you, Major Oscar Whittington!”
“Huh?” Allison squawked.
At the same time, Wil’s left hand gently snatched the gun out of her grip.
Allison blankly looked down at her hands, frowned, and complained to Wil.
“Hey! What are you doing?!”
“I can’t have you shooting him. Didn’t you hear me? This man is your father, Major Oscar Whittington.”
“What? What are you talking about, Wil? This guy is Dad’s subordinate—”
“No, Allison. I lied earlier. I’m sorry. I thought that, if I said that, he might confess before you tried to shoot him. But I was wrong. It’s incredible. He wouldn’t talk to the very end.”
Allison mumbled blankly, and looked at Major Stork. His right hand was on his forehead as he sighed loudly. Then, he raised his face and muttered,
Naturally, he was speaking Roxchean. Wil replied, thrilled.
“I have two reasons. One big reason and one small. The small reason is the Future House. Before we shot the armored railcar, you asked me about my relationship with Allison. When I told you that we were childhood friends, you mentioned the Future House. And you said that Allison told you about it. That could only have been a lie. Allison would never talk about the Future House. Other than the one exception she made recently, she’s never talked about it to anyone. Even if you were the subordinate who betrayed Major Whittington, you still wouldn’t know that much. After all, there are many excellent facilities for war orphans in the Capital District, where Allison lived. You would have no reason to think of the far-away Future House.”
“You could only have known because you were the one who sent Allison there. You must have made arrangements ahead of time to have her sent there after your death. Now, the second reason. Actually, ever since last summer, I had suspected that Allison’s father might have been from the West.”
“Because she spoke Bezelese?” Asked Major Stork. Allison looked at Wil, then at Major Stork, and busily back and forth.
“No. It’s unusual, but sometimes people might learn Bezelese for use in the military. And I’d known about her fluency in Bezelese since we were children, so that’s not something I’d begin to suspect recently.”
Major Stork silently nodded and waited for Wil to continue.
“Do you know the fairytale ‘The Princess of Greyruse’? I happened to talk about it with Allison last summer. She was already too old for fairytales by the time she came to the Future House, so that was the first time we got to talk about things like that. Allison gave me the summary of the entire story, saying that she heard it from her father. Do you know how the story ends?”
“The sky disappears.”
“Yes. That’s what Allison said, too. But that’s not possible if her parents were from Roxche.”
“You must know that the story exists in Roxche as well. But I suppose you’ve never read the Roxchean version. The ending is completely different in the East. I didn’t know about this until I read the original in the school library. The selfish princess finds the sky god, and this is what the sky god says: ‘If you wish for the sky, I shall give it to you. But in exchange you must give me your family’.”
“The princess thinks for some time, but finally answers, ‘I only wanted the sky because I have a family that I can look up at it with. I can’t give you my family’. Then the sky god sends the princess back to the ground. The Princess of Greyruse becomes a kind person, and looks up at the blue skies with her family. The end.”
Five seconds passed in silence before Major Stork shook his head and asked in Roxchean.
“Who in the world saw fit to turn that wonderfully surreal and abstract story into such an overdone lesson about family?”
Wil tilted his head and replied.
“Hm… I’m not sure myself.”
“I said so, did I not? If you trust the magician, good things will happen.” Said Benedict.
“Yes…” Fiona smiled, tears streaming down her face as she watched the three people.
“So, er… what does that mean?”
Allison, alone in her confusion, turned from one person to another before finally settling on Wil’s smiling face.
“All right. I’ll keep it short. Your father here, Major Whittington of Roxche, was originally from Sou Be-Il.”
“Why? And didn’t he die?”
“I can make a guess… but wouldn’t it be better to ask the man himself?” Wil asked, urging Major Stork for an explanation.
“I’d like to hear your guess. Please, continue.” Major Stork replied. Wil did as he was asked, still holding the large handgun in his right hand and the revolver in his left.
“Of course. This is what I think. You were a spy from Sou Be-Il.”
They could hear Benedict gasp. Major Stork spoke quietly.
“Please, go on.”
“Yes. After the Great War, tensions between East and West discreetly worsened. Both sides ended up dispatching many spies to the enemy. Everyone knows this. You, a citizen of Sou Be-Il, somehow obtained Roxchean citizenship and began to live in the East. And then you enlisted in the military. You slowly made your way up the ranks, and your fluency in Bezelese eventually led you to work at the Main HQ in the Capital District. And, of all places, at the intelligence department. Where they gathered intel on Sou Be-Il and controlled information on Roxche.”
“I don’t know who Allison’s mother was. But in any event, when the Lestki Island conflict first began, you were tasked with an important mission. You likely had to transport, or memorize, certain information and bring it back to Sou Be-Il. There would be no other reason for you to risk your life crossing the Lutoni. You asked Grandmother Mut and arranged for Allison to enter her care, then went to Lestki Island under the pretext of an inspection. Then, in order to return to Sou Be-Il, you chose the ‘best way to remove a man from existence, that no one may find him ever again’. In other words, you faked your own death. You put your identification tag on your subordinate and used a shotgun to make sure his face wouldn’t be recognized, even if he was found earlier than later.”
Suddenly, someone began to applaud. Major Stork was clapping.
“Incredible…” Benedict commented.
Major Stork stopped.
“It may not seem that way now, but at the time, the Roxchean military’s information department was quite lax on security. Plenty of gaps for moles like me to infiltrate.”
“‘Moles’?” Asked Fiona.
“Moles are spies who go in secret to the intelligence department and work as the enemy’s intelligence agents. They are the most effective type.” Benedict explained.
“Thanks to that, the continent enjoyed peace for the next ten years. Although it also drove Mr. Terreur to madness…” Major Stork said, trailing off. Wil continued with his own conjecture.
“The information you took… was it something so critical that a second Great War would break out without it? And was Mr. Terreur connected to it?”
“Yes. What I took with me was information on the latest railroad guns that had only just been developed. From their capabilities to their positioning, to their likely placements, to blueprints of the revolutionary new shells that dramatically increased their range. If those railroad guns had been deployed, the East would have gotten the upper hand. They could have launched an all-out assault and taken the island. Sou Be-Il would have been at a staggering disadvantage. We had to prevent such a scenario, no matter what. No matter the weight of the sacrifice.”
Major Stork continued.
“Most of those weapons had been manufactured at Terreur Steel. When he learned that secret information on his products were leaked, Mr. Terreur must have been apoplectic. After all, at the time, he was convinced that his company could lead Roxche to victory. Well, I suppose he wasn’t wrong. But in the end, he stopped trusting the Roxchean military, which failed to protect his secrets. And he no longer cared about who bought his power. That was why he began to smuggle weapons. As I said earlier, this is connected to the Sou Be-Il intelligence department as well. The reason I volunteered for this mission was because I wanted to finish what I had started.”
“I see…” Wil breathed, nodding.
“But to think that I would run into someone I had resigned myself to never seeing again… when I spotted my grown daughter on the island—and, of all places, among the passengers I was to kill with my own two hands, I thought my heart would stop.”
“Colonel… can I ask you a question?” Benedict, who had slowly come up to the aisle with Fiona, asked in Roxchean.
“Of course, Hero of the Mural.”
“What is your real name?”
“Well… Stork Fren and Oscar Whittington are both real names of a sort, but currently, I go by Aikashia Cross.”
“Colonel Aikashia, then. About Terreur’s defecting and the group Wil talked about…”
“Ah, yes. That was just his conjecture. But does it really matter what the truth is? And really, I’m the type to lie without so much as blinking. It’s not a very good idea to trust me completely. And if I were to add, ‘completely correct’.”
Benedict was silent at the answer. Suddenly, Fiona quietly tugged at his sleeve. She gestured with her eyes at Allison, who was still blankly standing in front of Wil.
Realizing what Fiona meant, Benedict said no more.
“Wait!” Allison cried. “So Major Stork is my dad?”
“That’s what he says.” Fiona said from behind. Allison turned to face her and stumbled through a denial.
“But… something’s different. If I remember right… it’s kind of weird to say this, but Dad was kind of… yeah! He was way more bleh! He was fat! Dad was fat and round and walked really loudly and had this stupid mustache that didn’t even look good on him…”
“Please, I did my best to match my build to that of my subordinate.” Major Stork said. The moment he said the word ‘subordinate’, sadness flashed by his face.
“I don’t believe it!” Allison yelled.
Wil stepped in.
“Why don’t you ask him? Something that only your father would know?”
“Right! Then here’s a question for you, Major Stork. What did I call you when we were at home?”
“‘Dad’ in Roxchean, and ‘Papa’ in Bezelese. Of all the questions to ask…” Major Stork replied immediately. Allison was floored.
“He got it, Wil. Was that too easy?”
“No, that wasn’t even a question. You’ve been referring to him as ‘Dad’ for a while now, and ‘Papa’ is the only word for ‘father’ in Bezelese. Try something else. Is there anything specific you remember?”
As Allison thought, Major Stork reached up and took off his glasses. Then, he placed them in the inside pocket of his uniform as he spoke.
“On your seventh birthday—”
“Do you remember how you begged me to take you to Bemarte Park in the old city center? I finished work in the morning and went to pick you up at the primary school, and then the two of us walked all the way to the park together.”
Allison was silent.
“You told me that you’d show me something amazing, and I helped you grab on to the highest horizontal bar in the park. Then, you flipped backwards and put your feet on the bar… I ran over, terrified, but you instantly did a backflip and leapt off the bar. That was what you’d wanted to show me.”
“What did we do after that…?”
“We picked up lasagna and cake at a restaurant and had dinner at home. Your present was a new hat.”
“Wait!” Allison suddenly cried. “Don’t just leave out how I knocked you out for a second with a flying kick to the gut!”
Then, she took a breath.
“Is that really you, Papa…?”
She asked as though asking herself for reassurance. She was speaking Bezelese. Major Stork’s answer was simple.
“You can trust Wil.”
Allison turned. Wil nodded without saying a word.
Yet Allison tilted her head several times, her blond hair fluttering, narrowed her eyes, and even pinched both cheeks—Wil’s cheeks.
“Come to think of it, Wilhelm. Were you completely confident that your conjecture was correct?” Asked Major Stork. Allison finally let go of Wil’s face. Wil shook hie head, both cheeks red.
“It was a gamble, to be honest, until I heard the truth from your lips.”
“Hah!” Major Stork laughed, amused. “If your guess was off, you could very well have been killed.”
Wil nodded, staring at Major Stork.
“Then why risk so much to do something like this?”
“I wanted to let Allison meet her father… No. Maybe I wanted to let you meet Allison. Because you would never reveal your own identity. Even in the face of death, you remained silent. You finally ran into Allison after all these years, when the war was no more, but you were still planning on leaving without a word of goodbye, weren’t you? And you would never try to see her again.”
“I gave up my right to be a father many years ago. I shouldn’t even be allowed to face her.”
“Yes. You are a terrible person. I also wanted to tell you that.”
“I see… Thank you, Wilhelm.”
“I don’t really get all the details, but…” Allison said. “This person really is my dad, right?”
“I see…” She mumbled, looking around at everyone. Her expression was exceedingly normal, neither happy nor sad, neither thrilled nor moved.
Turning to Major Stork, she lightly waved the hand that had been pinching Wil’s face not too long ago.
“It’s been a while!”
There was a moment of silence. Five people stood quietly, not saying a word. Fiona finally piped up.
“Isn’t there anything you’d like to say? You haven’t seen each other in years.”
“Well… er… it’s a little awkward. Y’know, someone I just knew as ‘Major Stork’ for the past two days suddenly turns out to be my dad, and all…”
“I suppose that’s true. But it’s still wonderful. You should talk. About anything that comes to mind.”
“I guess, but…”
As Allison floundered, Major Stork spoke up.
“To think you’d become a pilot. I’m very impressed.”
Allison looked up.
“You were always quite athletic, but I never dreamed that you’d be working with the latest in technology. I’m so proud of you.”
“And to think that you’d enlisted in the Air Force… I always wished for peace between the nations, but if things had gone wrong, we might have ended up meeting on the battlefield. Major Carr?” Major Stork said, turning to Benedict. “Thank you. If you hadn’t announced the discovery—”
“Please.” Benedict said, cutting him off. “It will be a surprise, but I have to tell you something about it. I will tell you later, so now please keep talking to your daughter.”
“Of course. But to be honest, I’m not sure what to talk about myself. Allison?”
“Will you… tell me your address later? I’d like to write to you. And send parcels. Maybe for your next birthday.”
“Oh, er… Thank you. For your information, my birthday’s still the same.”
“Hm… well, of course. Just tell me your address.”
A conversation so awkward that it did not seem like a father-daughter exchange continued.
“All right… but I don’t have a proper address right now. I can get letters if you address them to my unit, but not parcels.”
“I see…” Major Stork replied, quite crestfallen. The conversation stopped again.
Several seconds of silence later, Allison suddenly raised her voice.
“But! If Wil gets into Confederation U next year after he finishes secondary school, we’re going to rent a place in the Capital District and live together! You can send it there!” She declared.
“Ah.” She added, sounding surprised by what she had just said. Major Stork also looked rather surprised.
“Well, er… does Wilhelm agree with you?”
Allison shook her head.
“No… Actually, I haven’t even asked…”
“Maybe it’s a better idea to ask for his opinion ahead of time…”
“Actually, we don’t even know if he can get into Confederation U yet. That’s just what I wish would happen…”
“All right, then.”
Wil, who had been listening from behind them, suddenly spoke.
Wil addressed both the girl and her father.
“Decided what?” Allison asked.
“Once I finish secondary school, I’m going to get into Confederation U. And I’ll rent a place in the Capital District. Let’s live together, Allison.” Wil said firmly, still holding the large handgun in his right hand and the revolver in his left.
Two sets of blue eyes widened in shock. Soon, Allison rushed to Wil with her long hair aflutter, and grabbed him by the collar.
“You mean it, right? You’re not joking or lying or pretending, right?!” Allison demanded. Wil sounded as calm as ever as he replied.
“Of course I mean it. I’ve made my choice.”
After a moment’s silence, Allison hung her head, groaned to herself, and slammed her head into Wil’s chest. Hard enough to knock the wind out of him.
And with her forehead against his chest, she stopped moving.
“It looks like we’re in the way.”
“It certainly does.”
Benedict and Fiona commented as they headed for the exit. As they passed by Wil and Allison, Wil handed the revolver to Benedict. Benedict took the gun and holstered it.
“Hm? Hmm? Wait, I—”
Benedict and Fiona each took one of Major Stork’s arms as he stood blankly in the aisle.
“Let’s talk outside, shall we?”
“That sounds wonderful.”
Benedict and Fiona said, both smiling. Major Stork attempted a rebuttal as he was dragged away.
“Wait, those two are—”
“Now, now. Let’s go, Colonel.”
“But my daughter—”
“Let us leave them together.”
“She’s too young to be promising her future—”
“It is all right, so follow us, Colonel. I have a fun story about the discovery of the mural.”
“But living together at their age—”
“Now, let’s be off, Colonel. Do you dare disobey the orders of a future queen?”
Wil watched blankly as the three of them disappeared out the door.
“You made up your mind, then, right?! Great! We’re going to live together after you graduate, right?! Right?!” Allison demanded with her head raised, pulling so hard on Wil’s collar that it could tear.
Wil looked into her face, only a few centimeters away, and nodded.
“I… I was always worried.”
“Yeah?” Allison urged, her eyes about to water.
“But when I saw Major Stork go through with something so unbelievable through determination alone, I found courage. That’s how I made my choice.”
“You know, I always knew really well that it would be better to go to Confederation U. But I was too scared of failure to take that step. But now I have the courage to get over that fear.”
“Yeah! …Wait, what?”
Allison’s brows shot up.
“Allison. I’m going to attend Confederation U. And I’m going to rent a place in the Capital District. So let’s live together. Then you’ll be able to get parcels from your father.”
“Yeah… is that all?”
“No.” Wil shook his head.
“Yeah!” Allison cheered. But what followed was,
“We can halve the rent and split the housework. Living together makes things more convenient. It’s like killing two birds with one stone.”
“What? Is that really all?”
Allison pulled on Wil’s collar as hard as she could, and put her right leg around his.
Wil was tripped with amusing ease, and he fell back-first on the floor. Allison kept her hold on his collar, sitting next to him and looking into his eyes. Her long blond hair cascaded over either side of his face. As though covered by a curtain, his line of sight was cut off. All he could see was Allison’s face, right in front of his eyes.
“That’s not what I meant when I said we should live together!”
“Ow! Please don’t do that, Allison. It hurts.” Wil yelled quietly. Each time Allison shook him, the back of his head hit the stone floor.
“You know, when you talk about a guy and a girl living together, don’t you usually think of something deeper? What in the world is going through your mind, Wil?!” Allison asked, her blue eyes glaring straight at Wil. Wil struggled to answer.
“Er, what do you—gah!”
“I mean, what do you think of me?!”
“Hm? Of course I like you, Allison. You always gave me courage—ow!”
“That’s not what I’m talking about!” Allison cried. Then,
“Say, Wil? Can I kiss you?”
“Huh? …Here?” Wil asked, his eyes widening in shock.
“What do you think?! Didn’t you hear what they said earlier? It has to be here!” Allison cried, shaking him mercilessly.
“Ouch. All right, all right. Okay—”
Before the altar in the deserted chapel, Allison’s face slowly approached Wil’s as he lay on the floor. And she stopped.
Their faces were hidden beneath a veil of gold.