The death of Melvien de Malecroix, head of Adoulin's Order of Woltaris, marked yet another chapter in an ongoing tale of mystery surrounding the Sacred City. With his death, the body's subsequent disappearance, and the sleeping sickness ravaging Adoulin, the former reporters of the Adoulin Examiner, Famlienne and Skeptical Owl, take to the Celennia Memorial Library for answers. However, it is in Malecroix's diary that they find more questions, and the winter wasteland of the Kamihr Drifts seem to hold the key to unraveling this mystery!
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The mysterious sleeping sickness struck Adoulin without warning. Swaths of the populace lost consciousness and entered a deep, unshakable slumber. Although they remained alive, their bodies gradually grew emaciated for lack of sustenance.
Famlienne and Owl headed to Celennia Memorial Library determined to find the cause of this strange ailment.
Often referred to as the “Vault of Knowledge,” Celennia Memorial Library was a veritable treasure trove of information, covering events both past and present. However, not even its countless tomes could shed any additional light on the city’s dire predicament.
“Now that I think about it, we were here not too long ago.”
“Yes, for that incident with the exorcist’s would-be companion...”
“Thinking back on it now, little Yumela’s childhood friend had the same illness...”
“Now that you mention it...”
Owl remembered something as soon as Famlienne had finished speaking.
Owl and Famlienne had written an article entitled “The Curse of the Forest Revealed!” for the Adoulin Examiner that told of a young boy who entered Ulbuka Forest and suddenly lost consciousness upon returning home. The circumstances surrounding that boy’s illness were strangely similar to the malady currently afflicting the city.
“I think we must’ve looked through every book in the place.”
“We found nary a mention of anything like it. However, there is one thing we can say for certain... This sickness is most definitely not the work of the umbrils.”
Unlike before, dozens of people fell ill at the same time, many of whom had never even set foot within the forest.
“It’s almost as if the curse of the forest has somehow made its way into the city,” Famlienne said to herself as she placed both elbows on the table and rested her cheeks in her hands.
Famlienne lifted her head, and Owl turned around to see who it was.
“It certainly has been a while.”
Famlienne sensed Owl’s confusion over their new visitor and moved to introduce him.
“I would like to introduce Lord Melvien’s aide, Estienneux.”
“Aide to the Minister of Finance.”
Melvien was the leader of the Order of Woltaris and the Minister of Finance up until his unfortunate death in the forest. It was only natural for Famlienne to know his aide given her family’s strong ties to the order.
“It has been far too long since our last encounter. I had almost forgotten how ladylike and elegant you truly are.”
“That is kind of you to say.”
“Is there a problem, Zegard?”
“Uh, nothing... Nothing at all.”
Owl would be the first to agree with somebody who referred to Famlienne as beautiful, but to consider her ladylike was another matter entirely.
“I hear that you’ve been quite busy ever since... Ever since Melvien...”
“Yes, I suppose so. But to change the topic, the minister’s butler informed me that Lord Melvien left behind a journal.”
“Yes. I believe without a doubt that the work is genuine. It speaks at length of his passion for colonization.”
Owl nodded along in agreement.
If this was indeed a journal by a member of the Twelve Orders, then the book possessed significant historical value, especially if it detailed the Minister’s thoughts around the time he decided to resume development in Ulbuka.
“It appears he wrote this journal for the benefit of those left behind. Although I only read a brief passage from the beginning, it clearly stems from Lord Melvien’s brilliant mind.
“That reminds me—you are a reporter, are you not, Lady Famlienne? Surely you would be interested in such a find.”
Then, Estienneux set the notebook down on the table, simply asked that it be returned to the curator after she was done reading it, and made a silent departure.
“Did we somehow just get an assignment forced upon us?”
“Zegard, you should be happy. This is Lord Melvien’s...”
Famlienne’s hand passed over the scattered notes until it came across something in particular.
“Wait, what’s this? Huh!? It’s...”
The contents of the diary were well thought out, clearly a reflection of the intelligence of its late author. However, as the diary went on, it grew increasingly incoherent.
Not only was the handwriting progressing from crisp strokes to chocobo scratch, the clarity and cohesion that distinguished the earlier pages began to deteriorate, echoing the mere ramblings of a madman...
Owl desperately tried to unravel the mystery behind the cryptic prose. By combining the letters contained within the word “soul” that he found within their pages...
“The time is nigh. Return to me, my child.”
He was able to make it out as clear as day.
“I wonder what it means...”
“I don’t know. However, there are no further entries after this page. I imagine that after writing this, Lord Melvien must have ventured out into the forest.”
The very same forest where he lost his life...
“What do you want, Zegard?”
“It’s about a rumor I heard from a pioneer...”
“With a reputable source, I assume?”
“No, not at all.”
“Well, let’s hear it anyway.”
“They say that the body of Melvien de Malecroix has disappeared.”
Melvien’s body had been carried from the forest to the city. Unlike Owl and other commoners, the bodies of families from the Twelve Orders were given lavish burials. After the funeral had been held, the body was temporarily stored in the mortuary until it could be taken to the gravesite that had been prepared for it.
Somehow, his body suddenly disappeared. The Peacekeepers' Coalition and Scouts’ Coalition had supposedly done their utmost to find it.
“Yes. Although I do not know the reason why, they broke off the search shortly after it started.”
“Even though they never found the body?”
“Maybe they did find it. However...”
“There is no way of knowing exactly where it was found?”
Famlienne was no fool. In fact, she possessed better instincts than Owl himself. As she sat there chewing her immaculately manicured nails, she closed her eyes and began to ponder what it could mean
“’Walk together with the light, but ensure that you never become one with that light.’” Famlienne murmured to herself.
“That’s the phrase from before...”
They were the parting words of the man dressed in black. He had mentioned that it was a hint in regards to the sleeping sickness, but they had no way of knowing if he could be trusted or not.
That figure was more famous than they could have imagined. Many had seen him around the Mummers’ Coalition and in the streets of Adoulin.
“However, there were very few people who knew the name Teodor, and even fewer who remembered enough about him to be able to draw a sketch of what he looked like.”
“The answer to the riddle he proposed was ‘shadow’ if I recall correctly. Although, he said something strange like ‘I am the answer,’ or some other such strangeness.”
“You don’t mean that he meant to say that he was a shadow?”
The light shining behind Famlienne cast her shadow down upon the table. Seeing the dim outline of her figure there, Owl realized just how tired he had become.
Indeed, that is the case. Shadow cannot escape the light, no matter how hard it might try. However, the two of them can never become one. Perhaps I myself am a shadow, destined never to become one with the light...
Owl turned his head and shook off such a gloomy thought.
“So we still don’t know how this relates to the sleeping sickness, right?”
Famlienne lifted her head and looked at Owl.
“I was thinking the same thing. Up until just now.”
Owl gasped suddenly. What was she up to!?
“What do you mean?”
“Light can never escape the shadows. Additionally, in regards to the phrase, ‘The time has come, so I must return, in both body and mind.’ What if by that he meant that the light is calling to the shadow, or that the shadow is calling to the light?”
“W-Wait a moment, Fam!”
Famlienne could not stop herself from speaking.
“After he wrote in his journal, Lord Melvien was summoned by someone, or perhaps something.”
Owl felt a startled gasp escape his lips, his throat as dry as the Altepa Desert itself. His voice hoarsely managed to croak...
“And that’s what caused him to go to the forest?”
“But, he was unable to reach that ‘something’ that drew him there. Although his body was returned to Adoulin, I don’t think the story ended there for Lord Melvien...”
“So he was summoned even in death? And that’s why his body has up and vanished? Because that ‘something’ was calling for him? And you’re saying the Twelve Orders know about this?”
It was an outrageous claim to say the least.
“I believe Lord Melvien to be of the light, so that must mean that there is ‘something’ out there that represents the shadow. It must be the thing that attempted to become one with Lord Melvien. Do you remember? I just said so not too long ago; that it seemed as if the curse of the forest had managed to spread to the city as well.”
“Yes, you did say that...”
“Now I have proof. Look. After Lord Melvien started acting strangely, this sleeping sickness began spreading rapidly,” Famlienne spoke as she traced the dates of the journal with her finger.
“B-But what is this ‘something’ you keep referring to?”
“I don’t know, Zegard. But I think I do know where to find it.”
It was the one question that should’ve remained unasked, for he clearly knew what her answer was going to be before she even opened her mouth.
“You know where to find it?”
“Indeed. It is the place where Lord Melvien died; Kamihr Drifts.”
“Zegard, I believe that is where we’ll find the one behind this curse. If we go, we might just be able to save the Chief Editor, no, all of Adoulin, from this terrible illness.”
Owl nearly yelled out in fright upon seeing the fiery look of determination in Famlienne’s eyes.
“I-I really don’t think we should be doing this. I don’t think any story is worth risking our lives for! It takes seasoned adventurers to even be able to scale the Kamihr Drifts!”
Despite Owl’s vehement objections, Famlienne simply smiled quietly in response.
“I thought you might say that.”
“I am a true lady. For example, if you rushed off to save the Chief Editor who was basically a father to you, I would not try and stop you.”
Owl was shocked to find that she had seen right through him so plainly.
“That may be so, but...”
Feeling beads of cold sweat dripping down his brow, he let out a deep sigh of relief. Having raised their voices in their excitement, they were thrown out of the library, and had not seen each other since that day.
It was not until the day after he began making preparations for the trip to Kamihr Drifts that Owl learned Famlienne had tricked him.
“Huh? Did you pass by her without noticing?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The lady said that she was leaving together with you to go gather information on a story.”
Owl almost felt like screaming.
Curse that Headstrong Mistress!
How could he not see it coming? He had noticed the fiery determination burning within her eyes. With pangs of regret ripping at his very chest, Owl desperately set out after her.
- Story : Miyabi Hasegawa
- Illustration : Mitsuhiro Arita