Lanj: 2011/7/27 A.M.
Translated from the original Japanese.
Note from Nias: This account is ported from an old edition.
Seren was at the west gate of Felixia University. Today, he would have seminars from third period on. It was now time for second period. After that, he would have a lunch break, followed by third period.
There was still time before seminars would start. He could enter the seminar room early, but because he would usually be stuck in there, he preferred to kill time somewhere else if possible.
Therefore, for no particular reason, he tried going down to the pond. As he proceeded along the path of the land where plants grew in abundance, he saw someone sleeping on top of the vermillion-lacquered bridge and suddenly stopped walking.
“Are you okay?” he asked while approaching.
When he looked closer, the person seemed to have collapsed rather than fallen asleep. Flax-colored hair, a light blue skirt, a light pink shirt, and pink shoes. She seemed to be about six or seven years old.
(… Heat stroke?)
He approached her, saying “Hey, you,” as he tapped her shoulder. The girl regained consciousness and opened her half-shut eyes. Instinctively, their glances met. She was a child of quite handsome looks. Seren automatically put himself on guard.
“Who… are you?” she asked in a whispery voice. Her fleeting appearance, to the degree that she seemed not to be a child, startled him.
“I’m a research student here…. But who are you?”
“I’m…” She slowly sat up. Not being quite full of strength, she held the railing on the bridge. “I’m… Ridia.”
“Ridia?” He believed it was a name that showed up often.
“Yes. Ridia… Lutia.”
Again, he believed that surname was also common.
“So… Ridia, what were you doing here? You seem to have fallen down.”
“… I don’t remember.” She looked drowsy, and her neck slowly wobbled.
“Are you a student here?”
“How old are you?”
“Seven. I was born in 415, on Diasel.”
“Ah, so you’re Ridia Lutia,” he nodded. “What about your mother or your father?”
“… I don’t know. When I noticed, I was here…” she muttered, as if she had read through a scenario for which she had prepared a befuddled look.
Seren felt suspicious. But at the same time, he decided that he ought not to make the police protect her.
His memories from twenty years ago were restored to his mind. He wondered whether to get in touch with the police right away if this were not the place where he had met her.
“Ridia, where are you staying at?”
“Nowhere.” She shook her head with a fleeting look.
“Are you…?” As he scratches his head, his eyes reflect on the pond.
“… It’s no use.”
Seren gently held out his hand for her. “Umm… if you have nowhere to go—”
“…” She returned only silence. However, that didn’t mean the expression on her face became cautious and stubborn.
When Seren was silent, the girl opened her tiny lips. “… What’s going to happen after this?”
An interesting way to ask. A rather intelligent mind behind the foolish-looking face.
“Perhaps—” The first thing that came to his mind when being asked was an odd thing to say, but he thought he should say something more upfront, and he decided to inform her honestly. “—Perhaps, I think… you should go the way you were supposed to.”
“I see…” she nodded quietly.
“What’s your name, big brother?”
“Seren.” He was glad that he wasn’t called “uncle”. “Seren Arbazard.”
“Brother Seren…” Ridia took Seren’s hand gently.
“Are you coming?”
“Is it okay?”
“If you want to. I think I can get you a place to sleep for now.”
“… Thank you.”
However faint it was, he felt as if she had smiled at him.
“Well…” Seren looked at the clock of the pond and stood up. “Then why don’t we talk to Mel about it?” As he called Mel on his leizen, he waited for her at the plaza on top of the stairs.
Ridia watched students walk down the roads as she swung her legs from a white chair in the plaza.
After a short time, they saw Mel running out of West Building No. 1 with a bag under her arms. “Big brother!” she gasped lightly. “What’s the matter with this important talk? I had to sneak out of second period.”
“It’s bad. I kind of found a little girl, and I thought of talking about it.”
“…… Huh?” Mel stared at Ridia in wonder. She had a face that said something was a bit wrong. No wonder.
“This kid is called Ridia. She fell down at the pond. Looks like an orphan. She doesn’t seem to remember anything.”
“Huh…” answered Mel listlessly.
“So I thought of having my orphanage take care of her.”
“… Are you serious?” She seemed suspicious from all her heart. Most of all, Seren thought of that.
“Yeah, and I’m also thinking of holding off on telling the police.”
“Why?” She folded her arms and gave Seren a mild scowl. Naturally, she was suspicious.
“I’ve sensed a connection between us two. She was the same as I was twenty years ago. I also fell down at that place back then. Then I was found by a teacher.” Her warm, tender, white hands crossed his mind. “If no one picked me up at that time, I wouldn’t be as I am now. So I’m going to do the same now.”
Mel let out a small sigh and said, “Well, you’re taking her to the orphanage, right?”
“The talk will be saved quickly, you know.”
“Particularly…. For the good of such a time, let’s turn her into the orphanage.” Having said that, her face had the feeling of being slightly confused. It seems that’s the way it is. That’s why he suddenly picked up a girl he didn’t know from the pond.
“Then let’s go, Ridia,” said Seren as he pulled her by her hand to the station.
Ridia didn’t have an anse with her, nor did she have any money at hand. Seren paid the fare for her, and they traveled to Arna Bridge.
They arrived at the station and turned the opposite direction from his apartment. They crossed the bridge and climbed up a hill road, and just under fifteen minutes from the station, there was a large building. A building of an old-looking white.
As the black doors of the front gate were opened, they creaked. In the courtyard, flowering plants were growing thickly.
“Where is this place…?” asked Ridia anxiously.
“Flanje, the ‘Wind-Flower Orphanage’. Mel and I were both raised here. We were both orphans. And now you are, too.”
“Flanje… Flanje,” she repeated in her mouth several times.
“This is your house from today on.”
“Is this your house, too?”
“Nope.” Seren led Ridia by the hand from the courtyard and laid hands on the front door. “I don’t live here anymore. The director is the teacher Liiza.”
When they opened the door, there was a hall in the front and stairs on either side. Light came in from the windows deep into the second-floor stairs, and the dust sparkled and danced in the air.
The moment he stepped into the building, the smell of old wood and stone entered his nose.
“Hello~,” Seren made his voice echo inside the vast hall. “Liiza, are you there~?”
But there was no reply.
“Is everyone away?” When Mel stretched her neck to look at the second floor, there was a voice saying “oh!” from behind.
“Seren, Mel, don’t you have school today?”
When they turned around, there stood a beautiful woman with fluffy blond hair. She was holding a potted plant in her hand.
“Oh, hello, teacher. We had a bit of a talk today…”
Liiza, being spoken at, shifted her focus to the unfamiliar guest, and with good judgement, asked, “That child?”
And then, after they went to the director’s room on the second floor, Seren and Mel explained the situation in one way. During the explanation, Mel said that she was making black tea and left her seat.
Liiza listened silently, but when Seren finished speaking, she took a sip from her black tea and said, “I understand the story.”
“Is that really okay?”
“It doesn’t matter which house it is in particular. It’s because this is an orphanage.”
“Thank you. But you’ve accepted it terribly quickly,” said Seren with an unexpected look. Even if this was an orphanage, things had gone too smoothly up to here. Then Liiza opened one eye and slipped out a chuckle.
“Why this child that you chose? Surely there are chance encounters.”
“… Thank you.” Seren bowed.
“By all means, Ridia.” Liiza stroked her head. Ridia looked up with an absent-minded look.
“Yes, seems like she can greet people properly.”
“Well, then, I showed her around the orphanage, so you two had better go back to school. Don’t you have classes?”
Seren and Mel rose from their seats. At this, Ridia anxiously held onto Seren’s sleeve.
“…” Ridia gazed at Seren silently. Her face told him not to go.
“It’s all right. We’ll come here to help on our free days, so we’ll be able to meet soon. And Teacher is very nice, too.”
“… Uh huh.”
Still looking uneasy, Ridia let go of Seren’s sleeve.
“Besides, it’s my intent to decide to take you into my care here. Teacher might provide you with a place to sleep, but I’ll look after you as much as I can.”
Mel’s countenance did not change very much, but she looked at Seren and Ridia with a complex state of mind. Even though she had concealed twenty years of her own memories, she still could not comprehend his true intentions behind his decision to suddenly pick up a child he did not know. Moreover, she was suspicious about who in the world she was.
Once Ridia was under Liiza’s care for the time being, Seren and Mel left Flanje behind.
“Oh, thinking of which,” Seren opened his mouth suddenly on the way back to Arna Bridge.
“What’s the matter?”
“Oh… I’ve been thinking for the first time.”
“What is it?”
“That people other than teachers brought orphans along there.”
“Surely,” nodded Mel.
“I wonder what kind of standards they use to choose orphans.”
That somehow seemed to be a very important question. At the same time, it seemed to be one that could not be understood, however much one pondered.