Josh was reading on an electronic tablet that Talia had lent him, desperately trying to catch up on information from the pass 7 years he had missed. The most jarring was that the new Pyrerai had only come into power 3 years ago, quickly building up support and expanding the country's military production and presence. She preached of a destined power, a prophecy of her guiding the people to their rightful victory. Rolling out battalions of golem Titans, she had pushed the Dogon Republic back passed Ttian's Graveyard, a position they had not held for hundreds of years. There were talks of a possible invasion into The Walking Path within the coming days, granting them overwhelming tactical advantage over the land. Reveries Mountain, Titan's Graveyard, and The Walking path were the three most defensible location on the continent. It had been theorised that any of the country controlling all three territories at once would in the war outright.
After Adelle towelled herself clean - or as clean as a wet cloth allowed her to be - she stepped out of the small curtained partition of their room. Tossing her dirty towel unceremoniously onto the foot of her bed, she jumped onto the mattress, only to yelp in pain as her back slammed into the nearly dirt hard fabric.
“What is this?” she groaned, stretching her spine in pain. “My old cave was softer than this.”
Luce giggled at her suffering, grabbing a towel of her own before moving towards the partitioned wash area where a bucket of water waited.
Josh gently warned in the tone of voice he did to pacify his daughter when she was younger. “I'd take any comfort in Saracue. I'm surprised they even had a bucket of water for us to wash with. Their level of technology can't be said to be advance.”
Adelle stretched her back again. “What about that thing you're reading? What kind of magic is it? Another golemancy?” Grabbing her pack off the floor, she laid it across the head of the bed and leaned into it like a pillow. Apparently the bulky bag was still more comfortable than the bed.
“It's a computer,” Josh replied. “Think of it as a really complicated machine.” Honestly, he was still not sure how to explain the technology.
“It's voodoo, that's what it is. Something producing light and moving pictures like that without any magic.”
“If it's voodoo, why aren't you panicking about?”
“I have a friend that can travel through time and piloted a Titan. This is probably the most normal thing I've seen all year.
Unable to disagree, Josh merely nodded. He continued scrolling through the news, occasionally stopping at headlines that grasp at his. Corlyle had been appointed as President of the Dogon Republic for his eighth term in a row, which meant another decade of rule from the hume. But it was not without controversy, as he there had been suspicious on treason within his cabinet. A headline for Lachesis Nazarene's induction as Pyrerai propagated her status: LAST OF THE SENTINELS GUARDING SERACUE. It seemed the woman had elevated herself to mythical proportions. Some form of saviour come to rapture the world on behalf of her followers.
“Hey, Josh,” Adelle piped up after a moment.
“During my fight with Lachesis, she asked me to join her.”
He stopped reading and looked to Adelle. “What did you say?”
“No,” she answered curtly. “Not that I did not thought of it.”
Josh turned in his seat to face her head on. “What's your reason for saying no?”
She shrugged. “Didn't know what she was talking about. The end of the sentinels and all that. Apparently I was just a baby when it happened.”
“Do you want to know?”
She thought about it for a moment before finally shrugging it off. “It doesn't matter to me. The last - and only - memory I have of my people is a man carrying me away from fire. I think it was my father. But honestly, I can't get angry at what I never experienced. I can't know how to feel about being something I never was.”
“That was very mature of you. It threw me off.”
The curtain of the partition swung opened and Luce walked out, changed into a clean white shirt large and long enough to be used as a gown. She set her dirtied clothes to the side in a basket with the rest of their worn wears to be cleaned.
Adelle jested, “You're getting comfortable.”
Without replying, Luce went to her bag and pulled out a wooden box. Crossing over, she sat next to Adelle on the bed, the latter scooting back distressingly.
“What are you doing?”
“Cleaning you wound,” Luce answered. Opening the box, she pulled out a clean white cloth and a small vial of alcohol.
“N-no, no. I'm fine.”
Luce wet the cloth against protest and moved to wipe at the crusty cuts on Adelle's face from where Lachesis had hit her.
“Ouch!” Adelle yelp, backing off further into the wall.
Josh laughed and got onto his feet. “I'll leave you two to it, then.”
While he would never voice it, ever since Adelle came into their lives, he though Luce had seemed happier. Ever since her fiancee died, she had not let many people into her heart. The recovery had been slow, and leading the Titan Rangers had helped put some of her painful past into helping the present. But nothing had sped up her recovery more than her time spent reforming and training Adelle. Somehow, despite their friction and drastically contrasting personality, the two worked. Luce tempered most of Adelle's anger, and the latter taught the former to laugh.
Well, Jacques. Looks like she's finally moving on.
He picked up their clothes basket and headed out. Outside, he could hear the tavern below still murmuring with activity. But instead of heading down the stairs, he turned further down the corridor towards an exit door at the end. With his shoulder, he pushed opened the unlocked door.
On the open balcony, the Twins danced on the far horizon. As they were nearer to the south now, even night time had long light, and the heat continued to bathe them. A man and a woman was cleaning clothes with brushes and powdered clay. Mostly it was to get the dirt and smell off without having to use up their precious little access to water. He handed his basket to them with a thanks and a nod. It would be ready for them to collect come morning.
“Evening,” a voice behind him greeted.
He turned to find Eca sitting on the parapet, leaning against the corner wall of the building with a bottle and a cup of drink next to him.
Josh noted blandly, “You.”
“Me,” Eca smiled. “Care to join me?”
“I don't drink.”
“Don't worry, it's just water.”
“Well, aren't you fancy.”
He walked over and leaned against the half wall opposite the cup. Picking up the bottle, Josh sniffed the content. Smelling nothing, he took a quick swig of it before setting it down.
“Keep it,” Eca said.
Josh did so, picking up the bottle again and taking another drink.
Finally getting the chance to talk without the girls, Josh said, “The tunnels. To get there, you have to pass by the Harvestfall.”
“That's the plan.”
“You think that showing them the Harvestfall will change their minds? It's just another graveyard.”
Eca licked his lips, looking uncomfortable. “It's changed since the last time you were here.”
Josh was suddenly worried. He had seen the powers wielded by a Clover first hand. The ability to stop time and halt a war in its track. He had also heard stories of the Clovers. The things they had faced in the Second War were many, some unspeakable. For something to even shake a person like Eca scared him.
He asked, “What's it like now?”
“They're alive, Josh. The harvest.”
Josh shook his head. “No. It's a graveyard.”
“Not,” Eca swallowed. “Anymore.”
Josh sighed and finished the rest of the bottle in one fell swoop. The idea that Eca was suggesting was madness. A crime against mortality itself.
“If what you're saying is true and you showed them that, they might not be able to keep themselves away from the war. Even Adelle, as tough as she can be. This might be too much, even for her.”
Eca smiled. “That's the plan.”
“Manipulative bastard,” he said bluntly. Had they not been in a bind, Josh would not have went near the man. “You're very different from Miguel.”
“Miguel's a scholar. Being learned, truth, humanity, and all that. Me? I'm a templar. Greater good outweighs everything. Not all of us Clovers are the same, Josh. Some of us, we can separate what needs to be done.”
“Greater good, huh? I've heard that before.”
“Do you think a person is evil because of their personality? A good man can do evil with kindness. An evil man can do good without a heart. A benevolent king ruins the world by being too kind. An evil dictator creating progress through torture.”
“Which one are you?”
Eca smiled. He picked up his empty cup and offered to take the bottle back for Josh. The latter excepted, handing the empty glass over.
“I'm whichever saves the most lives.”
“We're not heroes,” Josh reiterated. “We're just here to save my daughter.”
“Doesn't matter what your reason is,” Eca replied. “As long as you save even one, you're a hero to somebody.”
The man in white walked off towards the door, leaving Josh to ponder.
Halting as he pulled the door opened, Eca turned to face Josh. “See you in the morning.”