Carpathia III: Episode 44 - Peter Pan

Unnassumed Lands, Village Inn

Festival days were about as close as Zhail Hills ever came to anything resembling a traffic jam. People poured in from all over and packed the only bar for miles around.

Kaoru and Zet stood in the corner of the inn, watching the crowd and watching the stage being set up for what would surely be another amazing performance by Tarja.

Kaoru: I'm sure that Reuli must be here somewhere. I haven't seen much of him lately.

Zet: Keep looking. I'm sure you'll spot him soon.

Kaoru looked at his phone, still with the jagged hole in the antenna area where it was shot, and flipped it open. His phone was the only connection he felt that he had to his old life on Carpathia and he always had it wherever he went.

Kaoru: I only have enough memory left in this to record a few more of these. Maybe I should use a lower quality setting.

Kaoru looked up to see Tarja coming towards him, smiling, and carrying what appeared to be a book.

Tarja: Hello Kaoru. Zet.

Zet: I'm going to get a drink. Either of you need anything?

Tarja: Thanks, but no. I'm going on stage soon.

Kaoru: I'm good, thanks.

Zet turned and headed over to the beverage table, leaving Kaoru alone with Tarja.

Kaoru: I haven't seen Reuli much lately. He's here tonight, isn't he?

Tarja: Oh yes. He's in the back getting ready. Sorry for not telling you, but Reuli made me keep everything a secret. He wants to surprise you.

Kaoru: Secret? What secret?

Tarja: I dare not say now. Not this close to the time. He'll be here soon and tell you all about it.

Kaoru was curious, but he knew Tarja well enough to know that she wasn't going to budge any further.

Kaoru: How about Ixon? I haven't seen him since we got here.

Tarja rolled her eyes.

Tarja: He's suspicious because Ghestalt hasn't come around to needle him about something like he always does at these things. He's been looking for him since we got here. Anyway, enough of that. I wanted you to have this.

Tarja held out the book she was carrying and Kaoru took it. It was clearly very old. Its pages were thick and heavy and the cover bore the distinct wear of heavy use. The cover was black and white, but had an elaborate drawing of a pirate on one side, a native on the other, and in the center, a boy. The title read, "Peter Pan and Wendy."

Kaoru: Wow, I don't know what to say.

Tarja: That book was given to my grandfather by his host family after he fell through the portal. Since then, it's been passed to my mother, then to me, and then to Quilyon and Reuli. Now, it is yours.

Kaoru was silent for a moment, trying desperately to summon the strength to speak in a normal, steady voice, which was a feat proving difficult as he was starting to tear up.

Kaoru: I'll take good care of it.

Kaoru reached out and pulled Tarja in and hugged her tightly. At first, she did not respond, perhaps surprised at the outburst of sentiment. She soon returned the hug in kind.

Kaoru: Thank you.

Tarja: You're welcome, sweetie. We're all glad you came here.

Kaoru: I'm glad I'm here too. I don't want to go back anymore. But...

Kaoru looked away, unsure of how to continue.

Tarja: You're still thinking about your friends, aren't you?

Kaoru was relieved to hear Tarja say the words. He wasn't sure he could have done it.

Kaoru: I have to try and find them. I know there's a good chance they're here somewhere and I'll never be able to live with myself if I don't make an effort to find them. I mean, what if they're in trouble?

Tarja tented her fingers in front of her mouth and nodded knowingly.

Tarja: I knew this would come eventually. Yes, you must go and at least make an effort to find them. Not right away though. We have to make sure you're prepared. Now where's Quilyon?

Tarja looked around the room, scanning the crowd, until she found Quilyon. She waited for her to glance in her direction and then waved her over. Quilyon came immediately.

Quilyon: Yes, Mom?

Tarja: Quilyon, Kaoru needs to go on a journey soon. Tomorrow, I want you to take him into the woods and teach him how to shoot.

Quilyon very quickly ran through an entire range of emotions. First, her head twitched as her mouth flopped open. It appeared that she wanted to say something, but no sound came out. Finally, her eyebrows arched and she looked at him like a sad puppy. Kaoru was dumbstruck by her silent outburst.

Quilyon: You're leaving?

Kaoru, taken aback by Quilyon's sudden expression of concern, fumbled for words.

Kaoru: Well... um... Just for awhile. I'll be back.

Tarja: Of course. You're always welcome back here.

Reuli: Kaoru!

All three looked up to see Reuli running at Kaoru. He leapt up and attached himself to Kaoru's torso, nearly sending him tumbling to the ground.

Kaoru: Whoa... Hi Reuli. I haven't seen you much lately.

Reuli: Mom's been teaching me how to sing! I'm going to sing some of the songs tonight!

Kaoru was shocked. He wondered if this was the big secret Tarja was talking about.

Kaoru: Really? That's impressive.

Quilyon: Yeah, the little bugger got Mom's talent for the artsy stuff. I had to get Dad's tone-deafness.

Zet returned with a half-finished beer in his hand.

Zet: Oh, I see you found Reuli.

Reuli saw Zet and detached himself from Kaoru, grabbing his hand and pulling vigorously.

Reuli: Zet! You're here! C'mon, we're getting started soon!

Zet: Oh, is it time for us to play now?

Reuli: I wanna do your song first!

Kaoru looked over at Zet in amazement.

Kaoru: Zet, you play an instrument?

Zet: I play fiddle.

Zet looked away from Kaoru and scratched the back of his head.

Zet: Sorry, I didn't tell you. Reuli made me promise not to.

Kaoru: Everyone's against me!

Though he smiled when he said it, Kaoru was only half-joking. He was delighted that Reuli wanted so much to surprise him, but it felt strange to him that he was the only one out of the loop. A hearty slap on the back from Tarja snapped him out of his musing.

Tarja: Oh, don't worry about it! Just enjoy the show!

Reuli: Come on! Let's go!

Reuli dragged Zet away. Tarja smiled at Kaoru before she turned and made her way through the crowd to the stage. It took a moment before Kaoru realized that the only person with him now was Quilyon. She was looking down at the floor, swishing her foot from side to side.

Quilyon: So, you're going away.

Kaoru: Only for a little while. I have to at least try and find out if my friends are okay. I honestly couldn't live with myself if I didn't.

Quilyon: I guess that makes sense.

The band members started picking up their instruments and a hush began to fall over the crowd. Kaoru and Quilyon watched in anticipation as they got ready, Reuli by the microphone with his guitar, Zet with his fiddle, and the other band members as well. Kaoru put his book down on a table behind him before holding his phone and to begin recording. As usual, there was no announcement first before they started straight into their song.

First, Zet started playing his fiddle. Unexpectedly, this song was much slower than usual, with delicate notes and a gentle rhythm. As the song continued, Kaoru was surprised to discover that the song had no lyrics either. He listened intently as Reuli opened his mouth wide and sang, "Ah ah ah aaaahhhhhh!" with surprising force. Though not yet as good as Tarja, he could easily tell that Reuli would equal her, if not surpass her someday. The drumbeat behind the other instruments had a triumphal quality. To Kaoru, it felt like something one would hear while standing on a mountaintop, gazing down at a vast landscape that stretched out into eternity.

Quilyon: So you promise you're coming back?

Kaoru: I promise.

They continued listening to the song together. The entire time, Kaoru found it very amusing to watch Zet play the fiddle. He'd never seen a nekomi play fiddle before and it would have looked comical except for the fact that he was really good.

When they finished the song, Zet took his fiddle and stepped down from the stage and headed for the drink table. The rest of the band prepared to continue with their next song.

Quilyon: I wish I could make music like that.

Kaoru: But you have a lot going for you. You're the smartest girl I've ever met. And on top of that, you're...

Kaoru struggled for a moment to try to think of the the right word to describe what he was thinking.

Kaoru: ...spunky.

Quilyon's face scrunched up in confusion.

Quilyon: Spunky?! That's the corniest thing I've ever heard.

Reuli began to sing again, this time, with his familiar, aggressive rhythm.

Reuli: I am the voice of Never-Never Land
I am the innocence, the dreams of every man
I am the empty crib of Peter Pan
A silent kite against the blue, blue sky
Every chimney, every moonlit sight
I am the story that will read you real
Every memory that you hold dear

As Reuli sang and Kaoru filmed, Quilyon slowly and gently took his hand into hers as they watched and listened together.

Quilyon: I think I can live with "spunky."

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

Reuli is singing Storytime from Imaginaerum.

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