Moon and Sun
Chapter 9: Король зимы

I curled up on my bunk bed. Snuggling tightly into the many layers of cotton, even though I was warm enough to not need them. Lavi's snores rang from under me, Bookman's slight heavy breathing was soft from across the room, and our finder's, Charles, breathing wasn't heard, but I saw his chest rising up and down from across the way. Even though the three men that I was sharing a room with on this train with were all sleeping peacefully, I was having an extremely difficult time to even get comfortable. The bunk beds weren't the problem though. They were actually pretty comfy. It was my body that kept me up for the last two nights.

It started shortly after we crossed the border into Russia. I started to feel warm, despite the dropping temperatures as we moved farther north. At first, I thought that I caught a simple flu. Nothing more, nothing less. But soon after, I started wondering. I wasn't coughing. I wasn't sneezing. I wasn't feeling fatigued. I wasn't even feeling sick to my stomach. As a matter of fact, I wasn't feeling sick at all. I didn't tell Lavi or Bookman about this because I didn't want to risk the chance of them seeing me as unfit to work on this mission. I couldn't leave this mission because a) it was only my second mission, and b) there's a big chance that I might encounter Innocence.

This mission had a strange background. It all started when a girl went missing in the forest that surrounded the entire village. All of the people described her as kind and sweet, and they were all worried for her well-being. But no more than a few days later, the girl returned from the forest; safe and completely fine. With her, she carried a small chest, filled with many glorious things: Jewelry, gold, fine cloths, and many other luxurious and expensive gifts.

The same could not be said of a girl, around the same age, that went mission as well. Those were the only similarities, though. This girl has been described as annoying, stupid, and "bratty" (their words, not mine). Also, this "bratty" girl didn't come back to her village. Instead, after a week of looking for her, a forest man found her in the snow, out in the middle of nowhere. She was supposed to have a light peach tint to her skin and was supposed to be warm and soft. But she wasn't found this way. The man found blue and purple covering her body, and she was cold to the touch. Apparently, when he squeezed her arm, her skin and muscles were unyielding, almost as if they were frozen solid.

I tossed and turned on my cot, thinking about the mental image of the girl. We haven't seen any pictures of her, but the description they gave us was enough to unease my stomach. Even if she was as much of a brat that the other villagers described her as, on one deserved to die like that.

Since then, the number of children going mission had gone up. All have been between twelve- and nineteen-years-old, and has happened to both genders. And it seems to be the way it was before. The good, sweet children would come back within a couple of days with treasures. But the ones considered troublemakers, were never seen alive and all found the same way: Completely frozen.

The elders of the village considered it a blessing of sorts. They became richer, and there was a severe decline in youth crimes. I wasn't until recently that they saw that their population was dwindling as well. That's when they decided to call the Order's attention to it.

Apparently, this is something new for Innocence. There is no record of Innocence rewarding good people and punishing bad. Because of this, Bookman insisted that he and Lavi go with me. Originally, it was only supposed to be Lenalee, Charles, and me. I was slightly disappointed by this change, but quickly got over it when I realized that this was my chance to understand the Bookmen better. And Lavi was excited from the beginning, seeing that now he can learn a lot more about me.

All of this thinking wasn't helping me at all. It actually made time go slower. It was starting to annoy me, so I decided to quietly kick my sheets off and climb down the little ladder to the floor. I sneaked my way to the door and moved out of the little room to the dimly lit hallway. There was no one around but that was because it was in the middle of the night, so I headed out to the food service cat to see if there was anybody still working.

To my surprise, I found more people than I bargained for. The car was filled with twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings; all drinking wines, whiskeys, white ladies, white russians, whiskey sours, and widows corks. The air was filled with the smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke, and the sounds of small talk and a classical song that came through the few speakers.

As I was walking to the bar, I realized that I had no money to pay for anything. Well, except for one thing, and it was the only thing that I needed. I walked up to the counter and caught the attention of a bartender that had just finished delivering a drink to a blonde lady. "An ice water, please," I requested. The young man gave me a questioning look, but got me my drink quickly. He passed me my glass and I turned around, looking around the room. I found what I was looking for. I bobbed and weaved through the crowd of people over to an empty table that was meant for two.

Instead of setting my drink down as soon as I sat, I took a quick gulp from the glass. The cold water sent chills down my throat and into my stomach, which temporarily fought back the heat from my blood, but it left rapidly. I took the freezing glass away from my lips and lifted it higher to my forehead. I felt the condensation wipe off onto my skin, and I sighed in relief from the heat. But again, it was temporary. I sighed again, but in agitation, and brought the cup back down to my lips. I downed the rest of the beverage in just a couple of gulps, and walked over to the bar, handing the bartender my glass.

I walked back down the hallway and back into the room we shared. It was still completely dark and I heard the different breathing patterns from the three men that I shared the room with. After I closed the door behind me, I started climbing up the ladder that led to my temporary bed. Unfortunately, on the second step, I heard a loud creak coming from beneath my foot. The next thing I heard was an interrupted snore.

"Huh? Li-Li? Where are you going?" He asked.

"To bed," I answered. "I just went to get some water. I was thirsty."

"Oh, ok," he mumbled. It sounded like he was going back to sleep, but then he asked me something as I started climbing again. "Hey, Li-Li? Why is there a red mark on your forehead?"

Wow, he has good eyes, was my first thought as I stopped on the step. After a second I started again.

"Don't worry about it, Lavi," I told him as I moved under the unnecessary sheets and blankets. "Go back to sleep."

"Oh, ok," he mumbled again, and I heard the snores once more. Thank God he was only half awake. I noticed during the small conversation, another breathing pattern was interrupted, and it hasn't come back. But I couldn't say that I thought anything about it.

I laid there awake, praying for sleep to come. Luckily, it did after about a half hour of lying there, close to sweating.

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AN: Thanks a lot for reading, again. I know, this one was kinda boring, but I promise this will all make sense in the next couple of chapters. For the language I used for this chapter title, and it will also be used for the next couple of chapters, there are a couple BIG hints in here.

I also want to tell you about my new story: As the Snow Falls. It is basically my version of the three years that Allen spent with Cross. If you're interested, the first chapter is out and I'm working on the second (in my head), but I'm expecting it to be out by the end of the week. If you're not interested, check it out anyway.

Thanks again! (hearts and hugs)