For two days now, Beth has been wandering on Dalygaran in search of the morning star. She tries to lay low as much as possible, but she needs help. It is not easy finding a plant on a strange planet when you do not even know where to begin looking for it.This Dalygaran is not exactly the same as the one she had known, and her points of reference are somewhat upside down. In place of the spatial travel center is a huge building dedicated to horse breeding, or so it seems. Beth does not dare get closer to confirm.
The town itself is embryonic. Of course her former hosts’ house doesn’t exist yet. There are just high trees and dense vegetation..
She goes to the Great Cascade viewpoint. At least this has not changed much in 500 gold rings, excepting the footbridge is missing. But she can see it as she closes her eyes.
She has been looking for a long time in the forest where Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe had taken her. She made the most of the opportunity to pick up some berries he once pointed out to her. But feeding just on berries is not enough for this body to stay in a proper functioning state. She begins to feel a cruel hunger creep in. As she is about to spend her second night outdoors, in a makeshift shelter she built with branches and leaves, she hears a voice behind her.
– So that’s where you’re hiding Moon Crystal.
She tenses up. Moon Crystal; that is the Major’s name. She turns back and finds a Dalygaran man well on in years.
– Don’t tell me you don’t recognize me. We met three moons ago. You were looking for the morning star.
– I… I still am, answers Beth hesitating.
– But we found it. I brought you to it. What are you saying? Are you alright? The morning star only grows during a moon. The one before the gold ring rises. And that was three moons ago, just before you literally disappeared right after we had found it…
– I… I’m sorry. I think I’m suffering from a kind of amnesia. Something I’ve eaten or drunk, I don’t know. Remind me, how have we met?
– I was roasting a fish by the water on an evening at the end of the Great Waterfall pond and…
Beth dematerializes, leaving the old man asking himself what has delayed him on his path. In front of him is a rudimentary shelter—who could have built such an eyesore? He hurries to get back to his own.
As for Beth, she knows what to do now: have dinner with the old man by the water, at the end of the Great Waterfall pond, three moons ago. She tries four successive evenings there before she bumps into him. It is the right time. She feels the first signs of weakness and stumbles as she moves toward him. Very busy with what he is doing, he doesn’t notice her presence.
– It’s very impolite to approach like that without a single warning, he says, a touch of anger in his voice.
– I’m sorry, I didn’t want to frighten you. I’m… lost.
– You didn’t frighten me. I’m only asking you to tell me who you are.
Beth searches for an answer, but finding nothing she gives the Major’s name.
– My name is Moon Crystal.
– This is such a short name.
– This is mine.
– Where are you from?
Beth is about to panic. She knows absolutely nothing of Dalygaran geography. Finally she blurts out the first thing that pops in her head:
– From the North.
– Really, from the North? I’m not that surprised then. That region is a favorite place for eccentrics of all kinds.
– I love my name.
– It mustn’t have been easy to live with it.
– I get by with it. I am a Major… Dalygaran’s special services and…
– Don’t talk nonsense. I can see your clothes are somehow military, but a “Major” in a special unit? You’re only a boy lost in the night.
“He didn’t use childish. Shall I take it as an improvement?” thinks Beth.
She has always known she was in a young-looking man’s body, but this is the first time she actually senses she is considered a guy. “Thinking back on it now,” she says to herself, “the Major was not that much older than me.” She suddenly feels wistful.
– I… I…
– I’m hungry.
– Listen, I don’t know who you are. But I’m sure of one thing: your name. Nobody will give this sort of name if not his. You seem to be in trouble. I can feel your sorrow. But you don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to. And I’m not going to eat my fish in front of you without sharing it. There is enough for both of us. Come closer.
And so Beth throws herself onto her first real meal since her arrival in the Dalygaran of the past.
– It’s delicious, she says, chewing in a frenzy.
The man bursts out of laughing:
– I never saw anyone eat like that.
From his canvas lunch-bag he takes out something she recognizes: Dalygaran bread, made of Dalygaran cereals.
– “Do you want some?” he asks her while cutting a slice.
– With pleasure, thank you.
She notices berries in a little bowl very close to the lunch-bag. She points to them with a finger.
– Aren’t those delicious berries?
-They sure are. Do you want some?
– I’d love some.
– Help yourself. Do you always eat that fast?
– I’m so sorry. It has been such a long time since I’ve gotten a real meal. As I told you, I got lost.
– Lost? A service man hey?
– I told you, I’m not from this area.
– There’s only one path to come here. How is it possible to get lost then?
– Listen Sir, I can feel your disbelief, and you’re right. I’m not telling you the truth. But I just can’t.
It is hard to lie shamelessly to a Dalygaran. He might have felt her embarrassment. So she thinks of putting her cards on the table in the aim of calming him down.
– You’re not a Major, and you don’t belong to the Dalygaran army task force.
– You’re wearing a kind of military clothing though, with a military haircut…
– You’re lost?
– And you don’t want to tell me anything else?
– No. Well, yes. I’m looking for the morning star.
– Here, on the lakeshore?
– No. Here, I was looking for help, and I found it.
– You seem to be very sure of yourself young man.
– I know you’re going to help me.
– I can feel it.
– You’re a bit irritating.
– I know, I often have this effect on people. They say I am…
– Let me guess: impossible?
– You’re a bit irritating too.
The old man smiles.
I like you Moon Crystal. I like people without any fuss. But it’s late now and we have to rest. If you want to find the morning star, we’ll have to go out very early in the morning tomorrow.
– Where are we going?
– I’m going to lead you there. You’re from the North. I don’t want you to get lost again. I will be your guide.
Beth closes her eyes for a few seconds. She would have preferred to know now where to go. But she feels the old man is beginning to trust her . Nothing else would happen today. And yes, she needs rest.
Now she realizes that the last few days on Frigellya were beneficial after all; she has succeeded in calming down and getting over her impatience.
– Believe me young man, tomorrow will be a long day. You’d better be in good shape. The night is bright and we can sleep under the stars. Look for a place to lie for the night. I will awake you in the morning.
– This is a lovely place to sleep. Really. And I almost just fell asleep. Thank you again for sharing your meal. Good night.
– You’re welcome young man. Good night.
Beth keeps her eyes open for a moment, stares at the Dalygaran sky. “Tomorrow everything will be over,” she thinks. “Tomorrow I’ll save Dalygaran and that will be the end of the adventure.” She cannot refrain a twinge. Then she closes her eyes, and falls into a deep sleep.