Carpathia III: Episode 18 - Eyeball Pouch

Unassumed Lands, Vayhama House

Kaoru was finally out of his wheelchair and off his crutches. For a short while afterwards, he was only able to help out around the house a little before he got sore and had to lay down for awhile, but his strength and endurance gradually returned as the days passed. He quickly became accustomed to the general routine of the household.

Kaoru eagerly helped out wherever he was needed, but found his own purpose in the vegetable field behind the house. When he arrived, it was ill-tended, since the others were usually busy with other things. Ixon showed him the basics of farming and once he understood that, he was able to take care of the small field mostly by himself. He had an eager helper in Reuli, which helped to pass the time more quickly. Reuli was as excited to have a new older brother as he was to have a younger brother. As they worked in the field or played together, Kaoru would tell him all about Carpathia while Reuli, in turn, would share what he knew about Yseri.

On this day, they had guests. Kaut, the green, lizard like boy Kaoru met on the night of the Blue Star, came over to perform maintenance on the generator. Also, there was Wolfram, Reuli's friend, who was also there for a visit. For the occasion, Ixon was cooking up a much grander dinner than usual. He was making a stew of some sort, cheerfully dumping a myriad of ingredients into a massive pot of boiling water atop a wood-burning stove. Before that evening, Kaoru could at least recognize the food for what it was. Meat looked like meat. Vegetables looked like vegetables. Now, he wasn't sure what was food and what wasn't. He quickly regretted offering to help Ixon cook on this night, for he spent much of his time chasing escaped ingredients around the kitchen.

Kaoru: Get back here, you leggy little tennis ball!

Kaoru shuffled around, trying to capture a small, squishy creature that resembled an oversize pink tennis ball with four tentacles. It was swifter than it looked, darting to and fro just when Kaoru thought he could capture it. Kaoru did his best to keep up with it and his efforts were rewarded with frequent bumps into tables and counters that sent forks, spoons, and wooden bowls tumbling to the floor.

Kaoru: Gotcha!

Kaoru finally snatched the last of the creatures and quickly brought it to Ixon.

Ixon: Ah, perfect timing!

Ixon took the creature and pinched it before dropping it into the vigorously boiling stew. Kaoru felt sorry for the strange little creature. He wasn't accustomed to seeing his dinner alive before it was cooked.

Other ingredients in the stew included many different sorts of vegetables and spices. Also, there were several tangerine-sized bags tied off with string. Ixon assured him that they were edible, pouch and all, but in the confusion of the kitchen, which resembled a war zone, he forgot to ask what was inside.

With the ingredients prepared and the stew simmering, Kaoru's work was done. He looked out the window over the sink and he could see Quilyon and Kaut on the landing by the water. Kaut was working on the generator and they were both talking and laughing together. For awhile, he lost all focus on what was going on in the house and just stood where he was, wondering what they were talking about.

Kaoru was startled when he suddenly felt a hand pat him on the back.

Ixon: Thanks for the help! Reuli and Wolfram will set the table, so you can go ahead and sit down.

Kaoru hesitated for a moment before answering, so absorbed in watching Quilyon, he wasn't listening to Ixon. The only word he caught out of Ixon just then was "Thanks."

Kaoru: Hm? Oh! Yes, um... you're welcome.

Ixon raised an eyebrow and glanced out the same windows. Then he turned back to Kaoru, smirking. Not wanting to answer any uncomfortable questions, Kaoru quickly made his way to the dining table as Ixon called out to Reuli and Wolfram.

Ixon: Reuli! Wolfram! We'll be ready soon, so get the plates and cutlery out, please.

Both Reuli and Wolfram charged towards the kitchen quickly, nearly knocking over Kaoru in the process.

Reuli: I'll get the forks!

Wolfram: Where are your plates?

Reuli pointed at one of the lower cabinets.

Reuli: Down there.

Kaoru took a seat at the table next to Tarja while Reuli and Wolfram ran back and forth between the table and the kitchen with plates, forks, spoons, cups, and other dishes.

Tarja: Careful with those, you two! Don't break anything!

Reuli and Wolfram: We won't!

Kaoru: Ah, it feels good to get off my feet.

Tarja: You shouldn't push yourself. Didn't you work in the field all day too?

Kaoru: I know. I just feel like I should do something if I'm not paying rent.

Tarja: I'm sure we'll all enjoy eating your veggies when they're ready!

The back door to the house opened and Quilyon and Kaut entered, laughing about whatever conversation they were having.

Ixon: There you are! Have a seat! Dinner will be ready soon!

Kaut's eyes widened as he sniffed the air.

Kaut: Aw, you didn't have to do this for me.

Quilyon elbowed Kaut in the ribs playfully.

Quilyon: Oh come on! You two do this every time you come over! We always have a nice dinner when you're here. You don't have to pretend to be so surprised anymore.

Ixon: Ha! She's right! Besides, Wolfram is here too, so we decided to make a nice, big dinner out of it. Now go wash up!

Kaut: Thank you.

Quilyon and Kaut went to the sink together and began washing their hands. They were still chatting and laughing about something, but Kaoru couldn't hear them over the general ruckus that Reuli and Wolfram were making. Every time they darted back to the kitchen, Wolfram would loudly ask, almost yelling, where something was and Reuli would answer him in the same way. Then, they hurried to the dining table to drop whatever they were carrying at the time.

Despite the chaos, everything came together in the end. The table was set. Quilyon and Kaut finished washing their hands and took their seats. Ixon proudly carried over the big stewpot and placed it in the center of the table. It was time to eat.

Ixon: Okay, everyone pass around your bowls and I'll fill them up!

Reuli, seated to Ixon's immediate left, passed his bowl first. Kaoru noticed that each person immediately passed their bowl to the person on the right and immediately grasped that he should do the same. When Ixon finished ladeling a heaping portion of stew into the bowl, he passed it to his right to Kaut before taking another bowl from Reuli.

Ixon: So, Kaut, what's Ghestalt up to these days?

Kaut: He's gone again. He never tells me where he goes, but I'm sure he'll be back in a few days as usual.

Ixon passed another full bowl of stew to Kaut and took an empty one from Reuli, and the chain continued.

Ixon: Hmph. That lazy old goat needs to learn what his priorities are, leaving you alone all the time.

Tarja: Ixon, don't criticize Ghestalt in front of our guests.

Kaut: It's okay.

Ixon: No, Tarja is right. I shouldn't do that.

Ixon took another empty bowl from Reuli and began to fill it with stew. The chain was beginning to near completion.

Kaoru thought hard about the name, Ghestalt. He thought he remembered hearing it recently.

Kaoru: Ghestalt... Isn't he the one who bumped into you at the festival?

Ixon: Good memory! Yes, he was. I guess you don't know what that has to do with anything though, do you? I told you before that other kids, always much younger than you, come through the portal. When that happens, the village council places them with foster families. Kaut was placed with Ghestalt. We thought he should take responsibility for something for a change. Believe me, we won't be making that mistake again.

Tarja: Ixon!

Ixon passed another bowl to Kaut before raising his hands and cringing.

Ixon: Right, right! Criticizing! I know! I'll stop. Promise. Other topics then. How's our generator?

Kaut: No problems. I just changed the oil and did some simple maintenance.

Ixon passed the last full bowl to Kaut and the chain was complete. Everyone had a steaming hot bowl of stew in front of them and were now taking turns filling their cups with the pitcher of tea that was on the table.

Reuli: Hey Kaoru! Want my eyeball pouch?

Kaoru looked over to see Reuli holding his spoon with a little, tangerine-sized bag on it. It was the same pouch that Ixon earlier assured him was edible, but he never had a chance to ask more about it. Kaoru looked down at his own stew to see two pouches floating in his bowl.

Kaoru: There's an eyeball in this?

Reuli: Yup!

Kaoru did his best to hide his revulsion.

Kaoru: Erm... No, thank you Reuli. You can have mine if you want though.

Reuli: Yay!

Reuli immediately dumped his own eyeball pouch back into his stew and scooped up Kaoru's.

Kaoru: Wolfram, would you like my other one?

Wolfram: Sure! Thanks!

Kaoru took his last eyeball pouch and passed it to Wolfram. He glanced down at his bowl once again. The tentacley tennis ball creatures had shrunk to bite size once cooked and now appeared to be far more appetizing. Much more so, he thought, than eyeballs.

Ixon: Kaoru, speaking of people coming through the portal, I was wondering if you could help me with some new arrivals.

Kaoru: Me?

Ixon: Yes. Seems two boys have come through the portal and they're from Carpathia. I figured you may be able to help me with getting them settled here with new families, since you know the culture best.

Kaoru hung his head. The prospect of ever returning home was quickly looking more and more hopeless. Moreover, there had been no word, no hint at all, as to whether or not his friends were there on Yseri too. He hoped they weren't, but part of him wanted to go look. The other part of him told him to stay where he was in the hopes that someone would find him, but despite the fact that that seemed like a better idea, the persistent, nagging guilt from not taking action was starting to eat at him. Helping Ixon, he thought, would make him feel better. If he couldn't go back and he couldn't find his friends, the least he could do would be to help improve life in his new community. It wasn't much, but it could give him a purpose.

Kaoru: Yeah, I can help you out.

Reuli: Can I go too?

Ixon: Yes, I think you're old enough now. I think you can help these kids feel a bit less anxious about being here.

Wolfram: Can I go?

Ixon didn't respond right away, but took some time to think instead.

Ixon: Hmmm... I don't have a problem with that, but I'll need permission from your parents first. We'll stop by your place on the way to town tomorrow, okay?

Wolfram: That's fine. I'm sure they'll say yes!

Despite the strange stew, Kaoru found the rest of the dinner very enjoyable. Everyone ate and chatted long into the night.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

Vayhama house by Jenova87

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