Carpathia III: Episode 80 - The Road Ahead

Unassumed Lands, Barrier Falls

Assured that neither Quilyon nor Reuli were injured, Kaoru allowed himself to flop onto the warm dirt and lean againt the wall. Quilyon held his hand and Reuli kept a tight grip on Kaoru's torso from his side. Even with all the soldiers dead, Kaoru knew there was still work to be done, though he didn't want to think about it. There was also the question of Wolfram, but Zet was doing well attending to him for now.

Again, Kaoru felt Kaut's hand on his shoulder. It was unwelcome, for it meant that it was time to go to work again. He hoped that Kaut had a plan, because he was not interested in coming up with anything.

Kaut: We shouldn't stay here long. We have to clean this place up and go.

Wearily, Kaoru looked up.

Kaoru: What did you have in mind?

Kaut kneeled further down, so that he was at eye-level with Kaoru.

Kaut: We should drag all the soldiers onto the sand boat and sink it. If anyone comes looking for them, hopefully, they'll think they died in an accident. I saw a bucket inside. We can use that to wash away all the blood.

Kaoru was impressed by Kaut's quick thinking. He turned his head slowly to Quilyon.

Kaoru: Quilyon...

Quilyon cut him off right away, already knowing what he was going to say.

Quilyon: Just do what you have to do. The sooner we can get away from here, the better.

Kaoru turned his attention to Reuli.

Kaoru: Reuli, can you sit with your sister?

Reuli clutched Kaoru more tightly.

Reuli: Don't go away again.

Kaoru gently placed his hand on Reuli's head and stroked his soft hair.

Kaoru: I won't go far. You'll be able to see me the entire time.

Patiently, Kaoru awaited Reuli's response. Finally, Reuli loosened his grip and Kaoru was able to stand. Reuli scooted close to Quilyon. Kaoru looked over at Zet, momentarily wondering what he was going to do. Zet was already approaching carrying Wolfram, floppy and limp in his arms. Kaoru gasped, fearing the worst.

Kaoru: Oh no! Is he okay?

Zet: He's just asleep. It's common for young nekomi to suddenly fall asleep after a period of high stress.

Kaoru hadn't noticed this about Jaze when they were young, but, on the other hand, he thought, they'd never been through anything like this. Kaoru watched as Zet gently placed Wolfram on the ground next to Reuli.

Kaut: Let's get this over with.

Without any further prompting, each of them grabbed a dead soldier and dragged him to the sand boat on the shore. Together, they lifted each one and tossed their bodies onto it. It was slow going, tedious work. After all five of the soldiers were on the raft, Kaut sprinted to the fort and grabbed an axe and a bucket from inside.

Kaut: One of you take the bucket and use the water to wash away the blood. The other can push the boat onto the sand when I give the go-ahead.

Without a word, Zet grabbed the bucket and sprinted towards the bottom of the waterfall. Kaoru looked up at Kaut expectantly, awaiting instructions. Kaut was already using the axe to pick at the joints between one of the pontoons and the wooden platform on top.

Kaut: In a minute, I'm going to knock off the front end of one of the pontoons. If this works right, it will fill with sand and break off, dumping all the bodies into the Arid Sea. The rest of the boat will just float away, making it look like an accident.

Kaoru: Wow, I'm glad you're on our side, Kaut.

Kaut shrugged and continued picking at the joints. Finally, the entire craft shifted. Kaut had clearly broken something important. He now began to hack at the front of the pontoon as Kaoru waited for him to give the signal to push.

The order came immediately as the front of the pontoon fell away.

Kaut: Push!

Kaoru started pushing with all his strength as Kaut dropped his axe and did the same. Soon, the sandboat began to drift away and Kaoru gave one, final hard shove to make sure it attained momentum into the sea. Both of them watched the sandboat drift away, heaving in the waves of the Arid Sea and creaking ominously.

Not long after, they heard a loud "crack," and part of the pontoon began to separate. Soon after, they heard the sound again, and the pontoon broke free and quickly sank beneath the surface. Now leaning heavily, the bodies of the soldiers each slid, one by one, into the Arid sea and sank beneath the surface as the crippled sandboat continued to drift away.

Kaoru wiped tears from his eyes as the sandboat drifted away in the light of the dawning sun. Though the chase was over, he felt for the crippled, sinking craft as as though it were his own life, now permanently disabled. Suddenly, he felt a hand around his waist and he turned to find Quilyon next to him, also watching the boat disappear into the distance.

Quilyon: Thanks for coming back.

Quilyon reached up and put her hand on Kaoru's cheek and they gazed into each other's eyes until, finally, they kissed. After, Kaoru touched his forehead to hers.

Kaoru: I thought I'd lost you too.

Hand in hand, Kaoru and Quilyon trudged back to the fort, where Zet was dumping his last bucketfull of water on the floor. Reuli sat up against the wall of the fort, gently scratching behind Wolfram's ears.

Quilyon: We have to go, Reuli.

Reuli: But Wuffie is still sleeping.

Before anyone else could say anything, Zet kneeled and began to scoop Wolfram into his arms.

Zet: I'll take him.

Zet picked up Wolfram and shifted him around onto his back. Then, Zet took a long drawstring from his vest and wrapped it around himself and Wolfram twice, tying it in a knot in the front.

Zet: Ready to go.

Kaoru looked up at the mountain they'd slid down earlier with dread.

Kaoru: It's going to be a long climb to the top.

Still holding Quilyon's hand, Kaoru took Reuli's as well and started forward, the beginning of the long climb. Suddenly, he saw something zoom past him. Startled, he looked around and finally noticed Zet, running on all-fours, rapidly ascending the mountain. Nimbly, Zet leaped and clawed his way to the top while Wolfram flopped around on his back like a doll.

The others had only just begun walking up the trail on the steep incline by the time Zet reached the top. As nimble as Jaze was, Kaoru was sure he couldn't do anything like that. Through all the grief and weariness, he still couldn't help but be in awe of the sight of a nekomi in his prime.

After a short while, Zet came back down the hill to ask if Reuli wanted a ride as well. Though torn between leaving Kaoru and Quilyon and having a short ride up the hill, Reuli reluctantly agreed. After tying Reuli tight to his back as he did Wolfram, Zet raced up the hill once again.

As the others were too heavy to carry, they had to make their way on their own. It was a long, steep hike which became slower and slower as their feet began to protest. Finally, they reached the top. Once there, they were pleased to discover that Zet had been busy, arranging the trucks for departure, preparing the bed of the Vayhama pickup for passengers, and looking after Wolfram and Reuli. Wolfram was now awake and, though Kaoru knew he had only been sleeping, he felt better seeing Wolfram awake and alert.

Kaut: I'll go on ahead and take the green truck to the center of town. I'll gather as many people as possible to explain what happened. We need to be ready if more soldiers come.

Zet: In that case, I'll drive them in the pickup truck.

Quilyon tugged at Kaoru's sleeve.

Quilyon: Where will we go?

A light bulb went off in Kaoru's head. Of all things, he hadn't considered where to go next. Their house was, clearly out of the question.

Zet: You can all stay at my place. I've got plenty of room.

After everyone expressed their gratitude to Zet, it was time to get moving. Kaut climbed into the green truck and drove away first. Zet took the driver's seat of the pickup truck while Quilyon, Reuli, Wolfram, and Kaoru climbed into the bed of the truck.

The ride was much smoother than it was before. Zet drove carefully, avoiding most of the potholes, passing peaceful houses and farms.

Quilyon: Why did you come back? I thought you'd be way past the border by now.

Kaoru: When I got to the bridge, I turned to look and I could see smoke rising. Right away, I ran back to the house.

Quilyon: So, you know what happened to Mom and Dad. Not long after you left, some soldiers showed up in that green truck. Before we could even greet them, they started shooting. Mom got two of them and I got one. They got Dad first and Mom second. I thought they were going to kill us too, but they didn't. I don't know where they were taking us. All I know is that I heard them saying to each other that they werent allowed to harm us. When they put us in the back of the truck, Wolfram was already there. They killed his parents too.

Kaoru: I don't understand any of this. Has anything like this ever happened before?

Quilyon: I've never heard anything. By the way, how did you find us?

Kaoru told Quilyon everything that happened up to the time he arrived at the waterfall.

Quilyon: Ghestalt... I knew he was a bastard, but I didn't think he'd do anything like this.

Kaoru: I don't think anyone did.

Kaoru felt a hand on his leg. When he turned, he found Wolfram looking back and forth between him and Quilyon.

Wolfram: Kaoru, Quilyon... where am I going to go?

Kaoru struggled with words, but before he could say anything, Quilyon leaned forward and took Wolfram's hands.

Quilyon: We're all going to be together for awhile. After that, you can stay with Zet or us. You won't be alone.

Wolfram sniffled and everyone took comfort in another group hug.

The rest of the ride in the truck was quiet, everyone alone with their own thoughts. Finally, Zet turned down a tree-lined road and soon rolled to a stop in front of a set of small structures. They reached his home.

The next several days were very somber. Several hours after they arrived at Zet's home, Kaut arrived. He reported that a significant number of villagers had already congregated at the bar and he explained everything to them. He had also paid a visit to the Vayhama home, where there were more villagers in attendance, already working to clean up and move Tarja and Ixon's bodies to a more dignified location. Later, they did the same with Wolfram's parents.

Kaoru spent most of his time doing everything he could to ease Quilyon and Reuli's burden. He helped plan the funeral. He returned to the Vayhama house to collect many personal and sentimental items. He also returned to the road to the bridge and picked up some of the things he had tossed from his backpack, most notably his book and map.

While Kaoru, Quilyon, and Reuli supported each other, Wolfram became inextricably attached to Zet, following him around wherever he went. Zet took to his new role almost naturally, the two making an inseperable pair.

Almost immediately after Kaut's meeting with the villagers, plans were being discussed for future safety and protection. Everyone took a pause from planning, however, to attend to the funerals of Ixon, Tarja, and Wolfram's parents. After the funeral, and life started to settle, Kaoru began to wonder what to do next and also wondered how he could delicately broach the subject with Quilyon. Fortunately, Quilyon did this for him.

Quilyon: Kaoru, I have something to tell you.

Fearing more bad news, Kaoru took a seat on a nearby chair and took Quilyon's hands in his.

Quilyon: Mom and Dad always told me that if anything ever happened to them, we should go to stay with Aunt Nita in the Outlands. We don't have to stay forever, but... it's a long journey, and I wasn't sure if you...

Before she could continue, Kaoru stood and hugged her tightly.

Kaoru: Where you go, I go.

They were easy words for Kaoru to say, and he meant them. At the same time, Zet and Wolfram walked into the room together.

Zet: Sorry, but I happened to be walking by and heard what you said. You're going to the Outlands?

Quilyon: We are.

Wolfram: Reuli too?

Quilyon nodded and then Wolfram looked up at Zet. For an unusally long time, they gazed at each other, both moving their mouths but seemingly with no sound coming out, almost as though they were communicating silently. Finally, they turned back to Kaoru and Quilyon.

Zet: Can we come with you?

Both Kaoru and Quilyon widened their eyes.

Quilyon: Of course! Are you sure, though? We might be gone for a long time.

Zet: We'd both rather be with you guys than here.

From then, they spent the next couple of days preparing. Food, guns, ammo, and even a few personal items were all stuffed into backpacks. Kaoru made room for his book and CD that Tarja and Ixon gave him. A kind villager gave them a small, horse-like creature to use to carry extra supplies. Kaoru even devised a way to strap Reuli's guitar to one of the horse's bags.

Finally, the day came for their departure. Kaut showed up with the pickup truck and everybody loaded their gear into it, including the small horse.

Quilyon: You're sure you don't want to come too, Kaut?

Kaut: There's still a lot to be done here. I'll take care of your house for you, if you ever decide to come back.

Quilyon stepped forward and hugged Kaut.

Quilyon: Thanks, Kaut. I'll miss you.

It was a tight fit in the pickup truck with the horse in the bed as well, but everyone managed. By Quilyon's request, Kaut stopped by the Vayhama house on the way to the bridge. Kaut had already stripped away the damaged sections and was preparing wood for some new walls.

Quilyon took a shovel and dug next to the shed where Kaoru used to store vegetables. After a few scoops, a small box was revealed, and she pulled it out of the ground. Opening it, she revealed several coins of varying sizes and colors.

Quilyon: Mom kept this just in case we'd ever need it. I really don't know how to use money at all.

Kaoru: Don't worry. I can handle that.

They took the box of coins to the truck and continued on.

When they reached the end of the bridge, Kaoru presented his silver card to the very bored-looking guard. The guard looked down at the card and up at the truck a few times and, with no further questions, allowed them to pass. Kaut continued driving for another hour until they reached a crossroad.

Kaut: This is as far as I can take you. The truck can't pass the road any further than here.

Everyone left the truck and checked their supplies, making sure everything was in order. After time spent in tearful good-byes, Kaoru, Quilyon, Reuli, Zet, and Wolfram began their long journey to the Outlands.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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