Bertine, Dorothee, and Evans' mother, Cassandra, were chatting in an open carriage driven by Evans.
“We were mourning since there’s no doubt Evans has collapsed somewhere. I never thought he would be saved by a young lady like you.”
“No. Rather than saving him, I had Evans as my bodyguard. We’re both indebted to each other.”
“Mother, I will definitely succeed as an architect and repay Miss Bell for her kindness.”
Cassandra, with a troubled face, asked her son,
“An architect? Are you sure you really don’t want to be the next chief?”
“Nope. Isn’t Camilo much better suited to be the tribal chief than me? Why should I become one just because I was born first? I've already said that many times, no? For the sake of everyone in the Bilba district, Camilo should be the chief rather than me. I’ll work hard in the world outside.”
Cassandra looked like she was about to cry.
"Evans, what are you going to do if you get sick again?"
“Um, the chief did say this too before, but does Evans have any sickness...?”
“Well, actually, I was like a sickness hoarder until I was about fifteen. I was all bones back then.”
Bertine found it hard to believe considering his current physique.
"You won't believe it, but it's true. “From when I was around seventeen, eighteen years old, I became healthy like a totally new person, but my parents can’t stop seeing me as a child who’s on the brink of death once a year.”
“Of course. Do you know just how many times have I prayed, to exchange my life for your health, for God not to take my child away from me?”
Listening to their parent-child conversation reminded Bertine of her deceased mother.
Her mother had a frail body, and she often slept. Bertine loved crawling into her sleeping mother’s bed, having her head stroked.
“Evans, I lost my mother when I was young, and I envy you for having parents who care so much for you. How about sending them letters at least from now on?”
“Um, right. Yeah. I’ll do that.”
In the midst of the conversation, Bertine noticed a place that looked like an orchard in front of them.
“We grow fruit trees in addition to wheat. We grow many kinds of fruits, so please eat as much as you like.”
“Yes! No need to hold back.”
The first thing that surprised Bertine when she got off the carriage was the ‘fruit tree’.
It was vegetation about two meters tall, with long thick leaves. Green egg-like mussels grew on the leaves here and there.
"It's a fruit called Dragon's Egg. You split it in the middle like this and scoop out the inside with a spoon and eat it."
Cassandra took out a small knife from her pocket and split the round green fruit in two evenly. The inside was bright red, with many small black seeds in the flesh. Cassandra skilfully gouged out the contents with a knife and handed out the spoon, “Here.” Bertine, who received it and put it in her mouth, was surprised.
“Wow. It melts in my mouth. It has a refreshing sweetness and a nice floral scent. Plus, little black seeds are popping out. It’s a fun food, and also delicious.”
"Right? Seems like the soil around here is perfect for the fruit, so we can grow it well without any hassle. But it’s quite delicate, so we eat most of them nearby.”
"I see. That's why I never saw it."
Bertine took another spoonful of the Dragon’s Egg placed in her palm, savoring the taste. It was refreshing, to the point that she felt like she could eat as much as she wanted.
“And this one is star fruit.”
"What an interesting shape!"
The slightly long egg-shaped yellow-green fruits with many deep cuts had yellow star-shaped flesh when sliced into round slices.
“It’s sweet and sour. Sticky, but the aftertaste is refreshing.
“We also eat this a lot. This fruit can also be used to make alcohol.”
“The wine is delicious and it won’t give you a hangover, Miss Bell. How about we drink the wine tonight?”
“Sounds wonderful, Evans.”
There were many other fruits that she had never seen or eaten, such as a fragrant fruit with shaggy skin which was white and juicy inside, and a fruit that look like grapes but was bright red inside with edible skin. Bertine thoroughly enjoyed them all.
“Why aren’t you exporting this to the empire?”
“They all have a sour and astringent taste unless they’re fully ripened. On the other hand, they won’t last long once they’ve ripened. It’ll rot easily, so we can’t distribute them.”
“Ah, how unfortunate. Just how much foreign money can I earn if I can sell this?”
Evans and Cassandra exchanged glances and smiled.
"Huh? Did I say something strange?"
“No, it’s just that Miss Bell completely thinks like the people of this country.”
“I also have the same thought, Bertine. You’re born and raised in another country, yet you care a lot for the Allies. It kind of opened my eyes.”
Bertine couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I was born in a rich country and grew up in a blessed environment, and I always thought I was happy. However, when I first came to this country, even though I knew that it was the duty of a noble lady to dedicate myself to my family and country, there was a time when I thought, ‘Won’t it be easier to just die?’ It feels like a long time ago, but honestly, it hasn’t been that long.”
“Miss Bell, that happened?”
Evans stared at Bertine with a startled face.
“Yes. I felt like I had nowhere to belong, and that no one needed me. That I was a hindrance just by existing here. At that time, I wondered why I was living, and I wanted to run away from being alive.”
Cassandra had a painful face.
“But you know, people in this country are kind, and everything I eat is delicious. Even today, I found out that there are such delicious fruits in this world. And now I’m deeply grateful that I didn’t die young at that time.”
Cassandra quietly approached and hugged Bertine with both arms, then stretched out her arms and gently stroked Bertine's head. Cassandra’s petite stature only reached up to the tall Bertine’s nose. Bertine leaned her cheek against her hair while being held by the petite Cassandra.
"My mother often pats my head like this."
"Whenever you're having a hard time, even in the middle of the night, come to my house. You are no longer a stranger. You're the benefactor who saved Evans. I'll always welcome you, and my husband will protect you."
"Thank you, Miss Cassandra.”
The sun began to set, and from afar, lively cries came louder. As Bertine looked around, wondering what the sound was, a group of large animals approached from beyond the orchard.
"Oh! That’s emmu. Miss Bell, have you seen an emmu?”
It was a bipedal animal that was one head larger than the large Evans. A big bird. A flock of about thirty birds had their necks tied with a string and seemed to be on their way home while being guided by an old man. Deep red wings and pure white tail feathers. Thick and strong legs. The emmus occasionally spread their wings, approaching them with the old man.
“Miss Bell, emmu’s meat is tender and delicious. The strong flavor goes well with alcohol.”
“So it tastes good? I’ve heard of the name before, but I’d only seen it in picture books.”
“A light person can ride on it to move around too.”
Bertine then heard a rustling sound, with the source a plump, brown animal walking through the orchard. It had the size of a cat, with round ears and a tail, and a fleshy body like a ball. It moved quickly with short legs.
"Evans, what's that?"
“It’s tamma rabbit. Is this your first time seeing it?”
“Tamma rabbit... I never heard of them. Look, they’re rolling like a ball.”
“They eat fully ripened fruits and leaves fallen on the ground, so they taste mild, but also great.”
“Can you eat it?”
“Yep. It’s fatty and delicious. You can simmer it with a spicy seasoning, or skewer it and grill it slowly to remove the fat."
“Ah... Now I can only see it as delicious meat after listening to your explanation.”
Many plans were hatching in Bertine’s head. She realized that this country had a lot of unused cards.
“Evans, it sure is hard to talk about the charm of this country without first eating delicious food, isn’t it?”
“Exactly, Miss Bell. Let's think about difficult things tomorrow, and eat delicious food and drink delicious wine tonight."
“I’ll do that. Leave the difficult things for tomorrow!”
“Then, how about I make Evans’ favorite emmu and tamma rabbit dishes?”
Bertine was brimming with motivation to make a work plan, but the thought of tonight’s menu convinced her to put work aside for now. She wanted to laugh at herself, whose mindset was gradually becoming more laidback like this country.
“Miss Cassandra, may I learn how to cook from you?”
“Of course you’re welcome to. It’s always good to have an extra hand.”
When they got on the carriage and headed for Evans's parents' house, a flock of large green wild birds passed the carriage and flew over them. They were flying home to roost, their long tails waving as they cried, “Kii, kii!” In no time at all, it flew away in the twilight sky.
“This place is like a paradise...”
"My Lady, I thought so too.”
“Dorothee, it’s really frustrating that I never know about this country for twenty-four years.”
"Me too. It’s so enchanting that I want to call my parents over and live here.”
Cassandra listened to their conversation with a smile, and Evans in the driver's seat was also listening happily.