The twittering of birds outside my window alerted me to the break of dawn. I looked up to see dim rays of morning sun filtering through the shutters and shining across the bed where I lay curled in a ball.
I lay wrapped in the overstuffed blanket mulling things over for several hours. After gathering my resolve, I pulled on the boots that I had tossed on the floor and hoisted my bag onto my back.
The morning's glare washed over me as I pushed through the door. I took a deep breath and bounded down the hostel steps.
My destination was the armor shop in the port district. I planned to ask the young lady who was running the shop where I might find her sister. If I could see her once more before leaving Windurst, I would be able to ask her about the young Hume she met ten years ago. With that in mind, I raced to the pier.
"Hey, where's your sister?" I blurted out as I ran up to the counter. The Tarutaru girl gawked at me, her mouth agape.
"Um, sorry, " I said. "The thing is, I'd really like to see your sister one more time. I need to ask her about the man she met. I think he might be an acquaintance of mine."
I wasn't sure if she completely understood what I meant. She answered me very matter-of-factly:
"I think she's at the Culinarians' Guildy-wuild. Today is her cooking class."
The Culinarians' Guild was just a stone's throw from the hostel--exactly where I had just come from. I took off my jacket and started running back.
I glanced over my shoulder as I ran. The girl and the storeowner were jumping up and down and waving at me. I waved back with both hands.
I checked at the Culinarians' Guild, but there was no sign of her. The Elvaan cook I spoke to was a bit surprised when I asked about the woman. She had been peeling vegetables right behind him but had suddenly disappeared.
So she couldn't have gone far. I left the guild and began searching the surrounding area. A quick sprint around the courtyard left me out of breath. I had been running at full speed with almost no rest since I had left the hostel. My knees were shaking.
I decided to return to the Culinarians' Guild one more time. If she wasn't there, I would give up for the day. A grove of pink flowers was in bloom nearby, and as I contemplated the blossoms, a familiar hat perched atop a small body came into view. There was something about that person...
I'd found her! This was the lady!
I had to steady my pounding heart as I approached her.
"Hi. I've been looking for you."
She certainly seemed surprised, staring at me with her mouth agape. I chuckled when I realized she looked just like her sister at the armor shop.
"What happened to your cooking class? You're going to need to know how to cook when you're married." I said.
She flushed crimson; I must have struck a nerve. I squatted down next to her.
"There's something I want to tell you...and something I want to ask you," I said.
I recounted the details of my dream from the night before in the hope that it would match what had happened to her ten years ago. I told her who appeared in the dream and what they had said and done, to the best of my recollection.
She fidgeted as she said, "I--I can'taru believe it! It's like you were there watching us!"
So my dream had indeed been a "replay" of the past. Somehow, I had expected that.
This was not the first time I'd had a strange dream, so the whole situation didn't seem quite so unusual to me. But who was the young man who visited her all those years ago? That was the one thing that I still didn't know.
Such speculation was tiring. I lay down on my back, staring out into space. Several of the pink flower petals scattered by the pleasant breeze drifted down and landed on my face. But a certain cheerful laugh echoed in my mind and took my thoughts away from the fragile beauty surrounding me. His laugh...
"By any chancy-wancy do you know who he was?" she asked.
The question took me by surprise. I sat up.
"I'm not really sure. I wish I did," I said.
I turned to face her and told her about what happened during the Great War--about my father and my brother. She listened on in silence.
"The city became a battlefield. And it was regular people, families with children--not adventurers or soldiers--who were doing the fighting. My brother was only fourteen at the time."
"Waitaru here! I've got something-womething to show you," she announced as she scampered off, not bothering to wait for my response.
I sat there in a state of both worry and anticipation. Eventually, I heard her high-pitched voice and turned to see her staggering toward me under the weight of something heavy. I stood up and ran to help her.
She wobbled as she hoisted up a cloak for me to take. It had the same bright crimson hue I had seen in my dream. The resemblance sent chills down my spine.
"This is the cloak he gave me. Look inside the lefty-weft breast of the cloak," she said.
The rest of the world vanished as I turned the cloak inside out. Something in the elegant lining glinted. Embroidered in silver thread were the letters R.K.
My hands shook and my mouth went dry as I let my fingers run over the embroidery.
"Could those really be your brother-wother's initials?"
I heard her speak, but I was unable to respond.
She continued, her voice quavering: "The thingy-wings he sold to our store that day were all made from very thick fabric. He also said he wouldn't needy-weed this cloak anymore."
Ah! Of course. He had said he wouldn't need any of the things he was selling--and he'd acted as if he had wanted to be rid of them. I was so deep in thought that my eyes began to glass over.
"I've thoughtaru about this a lot," she said. "He probably-wobably went somewhere warm after leaving Windurst."
Somewhere warm. In other words, somewhere further south. And then I remembered my conversation with the Elvaan woman in Sarutabaruta...