CHAPTER.02 – LOOKING BACK: RIAH (1)
CHAPTER.02 – LOOKING BACK: RIAH (1)
Side 5. Known as Riah, the area had declared its neutrality at the very beginning of the One Year War as Side 6, and was one of the few Sides who escaped the horrors of war. Even after the numbering was changed due to the Colony Reclamation Project and it became known as Side 5 did it rarely get involved in major battles.
One of the colonies of Riah was the Libot Colony.
Its pastoral townscapes, reminiscent of 20th century Europe, was home to key figures of political and business circles of both the Zeon and the Federation. The quality of life was good. And a good living meant that various trades were able to flourish. Thus it was here that the Danton Cleaning Firm was able to enjoy the fruits of the colony’s prosperity.
Hanging her last freshly cleaned bedsheet on the line, Arlette Hyleg stretched her arms towards the sky. Looking up at the sky from the rooftop, she could see vast expanses of green on the opposite side of the cylindrical colony. According to the daily weather forecast from the colony’s management system, there was no rain to be expected all day. Left on the line, the sheets would be completely dry by evening.
Arlette tossed aside the clothes basket, leaned against a railing on the rooftop and decided to take a little breather.
One hundred years had already passed since mankind made its way into space, and for sure, there was no need to dry clothes in such a primitive manner, but it was this analog way of doing things that made the Danton Cleaning Firm popular with nearby clientele.
Not only were the clothes dried in the sun, but they came back pristine. The multitude of sheets billowing in the wind in front of her were, without exception, a gleaming white.
“Yup, doing pretty good.”
Arlette couldn’t help the satisfied grin on her face, pleased at the performance of the washing machine that she herself had modified. It was a budget mass-produced thing that Danton, the shopkeeper, had brought from somewhere, but she had tuned it to peak performance. She was sure that no matter where you looked, in Riah or even in the Earth Sphere, would you find a better washing machine. If anyone saw this who knew her engineering skills, they’d hang their heads in despair at the talent wasted. But Arlette herself found only satisfaction in her job.
Instead of looking back at the past, now was about focusing on day to day life.
She was grown up enough to think about it like that, at least.
Just as midday passed by, and her mind wandered to lunch, the cowbell in the vestibule made a sounc.
“Hm? A customer?”
Stretching forward from the railing and leaning over the side, she spotted an Elecar she’d never seen before parked in front of the shop.
Two men got out, both dressed in tight suits, and quietly entered the shop.
Arlette’s brows furrowed ever so slightly into a frown.
Two men in suits were not the kind of clientele they expected at the cleaners.
Pushing her anxiety aside, Arlette began to climb down the stairs.
× × ×
The manager of the Danton Cleaning Firm, Danton Hyleg, looked at the sudden arrivals like there was a bitter taste in his mouth. He wore an apron, but it was clear that it didn’t suit his large frame, and when he shifted moodily, the wooden chair holding his weight creaked softly. It might seem strange for a shopkeeper to not welcome customers, but Danton wasn’t a very enthusiastic shopkeeper to begin with. So long as they had requests from a few regulars every day, Arlette and he would at least have food on the table. He didn’t feel the need to turn his passion to the trade. Even now, he was killing time with a jigsaw puzzle, whose pieces were scattered across the counter.
Having roughly gathered them together and restored them to their box, he turned to the two customers.
“What can I do for you?”
The men’s suits were a dull gray.
One looked like a young elite from some firm or another. The other was a little older, but from his behavior, it seemed like he was a subordinate. Neither seemed like the type that needed to visit a cleaning joint. But beyond that, Danton’s attention was drawn to the well-trained muscles hidden beneath the suits and their wary bearing.
This was hardly surprising. He had anticipated that people from the military would one day knock on his door. The problem was what they wanted.
No matter how things went, it would be ugly. So how do I deal with this…
As he turned these thoughts over in his mind, the door behind him opened, and Arlette, coming down from the roof, popped her face through the gap.
Turning around, he gestured for her to stay out back. But Arlette stood nonchalantly in front of the door, refusing to budge. It wasn’t that she hadn’t noticed, she only pretended to.
He felt he was being treated with less and less respect as the years went by. As Danton thought on his woes, the younger of the arrivals spoke up.
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Danton Highleg. And it’s Ms Arlette Almage, I believe…”
On hearing this, Danton and Arlette both held their breaths. On paper, they were supposed to be father and daughter now. This man however knew Arlette’s real name. They didn’t know how much the man knew, but it was clear now that this was no ordinary customer.
“You soldiers? Or civil servants?”
“No pleasantries, I see… My name is Mehmet Merca. And this is…”
“Now wait a second. If we’re going to talk about things like that, let’s do it somewhere else.”
Having stopped the the man who called himself Mehmet from introducing his companion, Danton stood up from his chair, made his way around the counter and stood in front of them.
“There’s a little cafe on the other side of the street. Why don’t you go ahead, I’ll catch up.”
Undonning his apron and throwing it to Arlette, he threw a glance to the men.
“Don’t worry, I’m not gonna run or hide.”
The older man looked like he wanted to say something, but the younger one stopped him and nodded. As the men exited the door, Arlette checked that the door had closed before finally opening her mouth.
“Those people know about me.”
“Looks that way.”
“Looks like we’ll have to move again…”
Before opening the cleaning business, Arlette and Danton had already made their way through a number of towns.
Their history, siding with the losing Neo Zeon army in the second Neo Zeon War a couple years back, was one of the reasons.
After the war, having lost their base on Axis, they had scattered all over the Earth Sphere and begun a new life. Many regions still harbored anti-Zeon sentiment, and it was clear that not all areas would give them a warm welcome. But apart from that, there was another reason why Arlette could not stay in a town for too long. Though they acted like Danton and she were father and daughter, the truth was that they were not related by blood.
During the One Year War, she was the subject of many experiments in the Flanagan Institute, a Newtype research institute of the Principality of Zeon. As a result, the flow of time in her body was abnormally slow. That is, she didn’t grow old at the right speed.
That was why they couldn’t stay in one place for too long.
Even the people of this town would begin to get suspicious if she remained young.
“You know I really liked this town…”
“Well, let’s see what these men want. If we can deal with it peacefully, then that’s the best way out.”
Replacing the apron with his own jacket hanging on the wall, Danton made his way to the door.
“Mind the shop. Father’s orders.”
Giving Danton a little wave, Arlette quickly donned the apron and sat down on the chair behind the counter.