Maxwell found little comfort in the short rest that he had managed.
Few things gave the Karakuri handler pause, but the item he carried in his pocket had a strange aura about it, a weight beyond that of what such a trinket should reasonably possess.
Whatever it is that Lady Ixsaline had agreed to retrieve, the elderly man had never encountered its like in his years of service.
"The sooner our ilk is rid of this, the better." He decided, looking forward to parting with it.
He blinked, taken off guard by the sudden visitor at his door.
A young, slender woman stood outside his compartment, awkwardly clasping her hands together as he gruffly opened the door.
"Something I can do for you, young lady?" Maxwell eyed her cautiously, keeping his greeting brief. She was an unusual sight, to be sure, with pale skin that would impress even Noelle, and silvery hair that glinted off the dim light in the room. She was clad in a thick fur coat, a fashionable and expensive outfit that perhaps only nobles could afford, and her blue eyes were brightly lit with a curious fervor.
"I'm so sorry to bother you, ser, but I was…um, wondering if you perhaps knew the name of that young lady who came by? The elf, I mean." Her accent was thick and exotic, Maxwell recognizing it as belonging to that of a native of western Drachma.
"I don't believe I know who you're talking about." Maxwell shrugged, studying her closely as the girl faltered, fidgeting nervously with her gloved hands.
"O-Oh, dear, I apologize, I must have mistaken this compartment." She stammered, her cheeks burning red as she stepped back, bowing slightly. "She was rather beautiful, is all."
Maxwell resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Doubtlessly, Noelle would appreciate such advances, but that was a risk he was little interested in entertaining.
"No, you're quite alright, young lady. I apologize that I cannot help you." Maxwell nodded politely. "There are many eligible young men and women aboard this train, I'm sure the elf you seek may be among them."
"O-Of course, of course, t-thank you, ser." As she turned to walk away, however, a great impact shook the train to a halt, throwing Maxwell against the opposite seat and the silver-haired girl against the floor.
"What in the…!" Uttering a quiet curse under his breath, Maxwell straightened his coat as he climbed to his feet, grimacing as he watched the young girl in front of him shakily clamber to her knees.
"W-What was that?!" She cried out, squeaking in fear as the lights around them fizzled out.
"The train stopped. This isn't good." Maxwell knew that there was little reason for an unimportant luxury train like this to be stopped. It didn't feel like some kind of mere accident that had derailed their trip.
The echoes of other residents complaining amidst themselves echoed from down the corridors, Maxwell carefully looking out to check for anything unusual. He knew Noelle was staying in a compartment several cars down from his, but the nature of their work meant that she wasn't going to be able to help him.
Before he could examine the girl, who was still nervously looking around, a strange shrieking sound blared throughout the winter night sky outside, another massive impact ramming into the opposite side of the car. Maxwell was thrown back, his back smashing against the compartment window hard enough to feel a slight crack form beneath his weight.
To his horror, the unmistakable sound of a train car door opening soon echoed out as well, even as he grabbed at whatever balancing item he could in the room. The silver-haired girl let out a shriek, her fur hat having flown off across the corridor as she covered her head with her hands in fear.
"Damn it." He grimaced, hearing the sound of heavy boots slowly stomping outside, followed by the entry of their attacker into the train compartment.
The sheer weight of the steps that drew closer were impressive, Maxwell even perhaps found himself confused.
The girl let out an even louder shriek as she saw the figure slowly approach, Maxwell's confusion magnified as a trench-coat clad woman appeared, her red hair neatly tied in a bun. Slowly this strange woman approached the compartment he was in, briefly studying the noble girl cowering against the door. She stood mere feet away from Maxwell, who regarded the emotionless sphinx of a woman with an irritated glare.
"What do you want?" He demanded, still gathering his composure as he faced down his silent assailant.
"The artifact. Where is it?" She enunciated her words slowly and matter-of-factly, with little hint of an accent amidst her language.
"I don't know what you're talking about, but you had best move on. There is nothing for you her—gurkk!" Before Maxwell could finish his sentence, the woman had lunged forward, her gloved hand punching through his chest in a spray of blood and shattered bone pieces. He could do little but stare at his mutilated chest, blood pouring from his mouth as his soon-to-be killer regarded him with an emotionless expression, her own face sprayed with his gore.
"…" Pulling back her hand, she reached into his ruined coat, searching the pockets as he slowly slid to the ground, barely conscious as he felt the ancient key slide from his coat, the woman retrieving it and examining it closely before placing it in her own pocket.
"You…You ignorant fool." Maxwell coughed, clutching weakly at his chest wound. "You have no idea what you've done here today, do you?"
She stared at him, unaffected by his words as she turned around, walking calmly out of the compartment and down the hall, Maxwell's vision dimming into blackness as he uttered his last words.
"…F-Forgive me, Lady Ixsaline."