Sorry for the wait. Here's the first update for volume 2 of Lillia and Treize, which picks up right where the previous book left off. Enjoy.
Lillia Schultz: 15 years old. A third-year secondary school student who lives in the Capital District of the Roxcheanuk Confederation. Her mother is Allison, and her father is the late Wilhelm Schultz. Lillia’s specialties are Bezelese and piloting. Her full name is extremely long.
Treize: 16 years old. He is the son of Queen Francesca and Sir Benedict. Although Treize was supposed to be a prince of Iks, certain circumstances prevented him from claiming royal blood. He and his twin sister Meriel are constantly arguing over who is the older one. Treize and Lillia are childhood friends, though she doesn’t know his true identity.
Allison Schultz: 35 years old. She is a captain in the Roxcheanuk Confederation Air Force. Allison currently works as a test pilot, and lives with her daughter Lillia in an apartment in the Capital District. She is still a heavy sleeper.
Major Travas: 35 years old. He is part of the Royal Army of the Allied Kingdoms of Bezel-Iltoa. He is a military attaché who works in the embassy, and is part of the intelligence agency—in other words, he is a spy. Major Travas is currently Allison’s boyfriend, but in reality—
Chapter 6: Wings of Death
The seaplane was flying over the Kurz Sea.
Its hard streamlined fuselage, the wide wings over it, the four engines lined up on the wings, and the propellers drawing clear circles in the air.
Much like a waterborne vessel, everything under the water line was painted black.
The engines sang a four-part harmony, leisurely and elegantly—or, to be more cynical, slowly and heavily—pushing the plane through the air.
Three men sat in the cockpit. The two sitting side-by-side were the pilot and the co-pilot, with the pilot on the left side. Sitting sideways behind them, beside the engine control panel and the radio, was the engineer. He was the one who had led the children aboard earlier.
The men were all in their forties, wearing aviator jackets over their button-up shirts with ties, with hats and headsets on their heads. There were microphones strapped around their necks.
The bearded man in the pilot’s seat spoke over the radio to his companions.
<Things are going smoothly. For now.>
The other men replied.
<Yes, for the time being.>
The pilot glanced at the clock, crowded amidst the instruments, and muttered amusedly.
<Not much longer now. Soon, we’ll be filthy rich.>
Somewhere above and behind the seaplane.
Four fighter planes were flying in the seaplane’s blind spot.
They were amphibious planes equipped with floats; the same model flown by the man who shot Mateo the previous day, and the ones that riddled Mateo’s plane with bullets.
The planes flew in diagonal formation, maintaining the same speed as the seaplane as they followed behind.
Inside the seaplane, the children clung to the windows as the dampened roar of the engines filled the cabin. They stared outside, ever-captivated by the water below and the ripples of sunlight.
And in the very last row, Lillia slept.
Carlo, sitting across from her, twirled his hat around his finger and whispered,
“Big sis is totally knocked out. Too bad.”
“She’s just tired. Leave her be.” Treize replied. He also seemed completely uninterested in the view, keeping the curtain shut and staring a hole through the seat ahead of him, deep in thought.
Carlo turned to Treize.
“I wanna ask you something.”
“Are you big sis’s boyfriend?”
Treize’s expression stiffened. He slowly shook his head.
“If she were awake to hear that, she’d yell, ‘No!’ and lash out.”
“At me. Though I don’t know why.”
“Huh.” Carlo mumbled, then asked, “Then you’ve never kissed each other, either?”
For a moment, Treize was floored. But he quickly struggled to gather himself.
“No, not yet. And I seriously hope she didn’t hear that, either.”
“Would she hit you?”
“Well, I guess it’s nice to be friends.”
“I don’t know how you came to that conclusion, but it certainly is nice to be friends.”
“Anyway…” Carlo trailed off, his gaze turning to Lillia as his tone grew calm. “Big sis is really pretty.”
“Huh? …Oh. Yeah.”
“She looks like a good person. She looks really nice and kind.”
“You wouldn’t want to see her when she gets angry.”
“And she’s got long, shiny hair. You see brunettes everywhere, but something’s different about her. You know, when I saw her at the harbor earlier, big sis’s hair was shining in the sun like silk. It was really pretty.”
“Looks like someone’s in love.”
Carlo’s gaze turned into a glare aimed straight at Treize.
“I dunno about that.”
“Don’t make me get mad at you! Stop acting like you know everything.”
“All right, all right. I’m sorry.”
Treize apologized with a smile, and Carlo pushed his hat over his face and turned away. He turned his sights to the scenery outside.
Treize turned to him.
“Anyway, you can see underneath from that window, right?”
“Can you see land? It doesn’t matter if it’s in the distance.”
“Land? No. There’s been nothing but water all around for a while. This is really fun. You know, I’ve been swimming a lot but I’ve never seen the lake from high up.”
“That’s strange…” Treize muttered, glancing at the watch on his left hand. “Something’s not right.”
It was already long past the landing time he had estimated for Lillia earlier.
Treize drew back the curtains and pressed his face against the window, his sights set ahead. He could see the left wing and the support floats underneath. When he turned, he could see the sun shining brightly above.
“What?” He gasped. Carlo looked over.
“What’s wrong, big bro?”
The sunlight filtered in through the round window and shone on Treize’s shocked face.
Treize scrambled to unwind his watch. He pointed the hour hand, which was pointing at the 3, toward the sun. In the northern hemisphere, the angle between the hour hand pointing at the sun and the number 12 was south.
Currently, as Treize sat facing forward, south was behind him and to his left. So the plane was headed northwest. In other words, the seaplane was flying further into the center of the massive Kurz Sea—in the opposite direction from Lartika and land.
“Why didn’t I figure this out earlier? …I’m such an idiot!” Treize chastised himself. Carlo gave him a quizzical look.
“What’s wrong? Was the apple from before poisoned?”
“No, it’s something else.” Treize replied, and getting off his seat, he went over to Lillia. With his right hand he mercilessly pinched her left cheek.
“Lillia, wake up!”
When Lillia woke up to the sight of Treize pinching her, she instantly swung her right arm. Treize stopped her fist with his left hand and let go of her face.
“What the heck, Treize? You couldn’t think of any other way to wake—”
“Lillia. Something’s not right.”
The gravity in Treize’s face chased some(but not all) of the sleep from Lillia’s eyes.
“With you? Took you long enough to figure out.”
“No, I’m talking about this seaplane.”
“It’s still flying nicely.”
“Exactly. It’s still flying. We should have landed already by this point.”
“Maybe they’re taking a detour. Wake me up when we get there.”
“Don’t fall asleep! The seaplane’s headed in the opposite direction. At this rate, we’re going to run out of fuel in the middle of the lake.”
Lillia stared curiously and stood.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to the cockpit to ask what’s happening. Let’s go.”
“All right.” Lillia nodded.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Carlo wondered, finally joining the conversation.
“We’re not sure yet, but tell the others not to worry.”
Lillia and Treize left Carlo behind and walked down the aisle. They passed the children, who clung to the windows, and approached the door. Treize reached for the door’s handles. Of the three, the top and the bottom handles moved. However—
The second one was locked. Treize crouched next to the door and peered into the keyhole.
“Lillia, do you by any chance have a—”
Lillia grabbed Treize by the shoulder and pushed him aside. Then she took out a hairpin from the wallet in her pocket and broke it in half, then stuck it in the keyhole and fiddled with it with both hands.
“…Come on… just a little more…”
There was a click, and the lock came undone. Treize tested the handle and turned to Lillia.
“Mom passed on this technique to me. Apparently now I can get into the house even if I forget my keys.”
Quietly, Treize opened the door and slid outside. Lillia followed him and shut the door behind her.
In the dark corridor, they turned to the front of the plane. At that moment—
Treize’s eyes met the bearded pilot’s. Both gasped in bewilderment.
The pilot stood at the door. There was a large cloth rucksack on his back. Upon closer examination, it was not a rucksack, but a parachute. It was strapped not only to his shoulders, but also around his chest and thighs.
“What’re you doing?” Treize asked.
“Heh heh heh.”
The pilot laughed abashedly. Lillia, who watched from behind Treize, also froze in shock.
With that, the pilot heaved the door open.
The moment the door opened, the corridor was filled with the howl of the wind and the roar of the engines. Lillia’s hair danced in the gale.
The pilot fixed the gaping door to the interior and pulled the parachute cord from his left side. There was something metal at the end of the cord, and he hooked it to the handle by the door.
With a yell, the pilot jumped out the door. All that was left was the rope hanging out the doorway.
As Lillia and Treize stood, dumbfounded, the co-pilot emerged from the cockpit. He was also strapped to a parachute. His eyes went wide for a moment when he spotted the duo, but he quickly hooked the cord to the handle with a deft hand and followed the pilot outside.
The third man soon emerged. He was the friendly engineer from before. Treize pulled his handgun from his belt pack and pointed it at the man.
“Hey, you! Freeze!”
Taken completely by surprise at the presence of people outside the locked door, and the fact that one of the people was pointing a gun at him, the engineer froze with his eyes bulging. Though he had the cord in his left hand, he had yet to hook it onto the handle. In his right hand was something resembling a large telephone receiver, about 30 centimeters in length.
“Whoa! Don’t shoot, young man!” The engineer cried, his voice fighting the roar of the wind. Treize stepped forward, his gun still trained on the man.
“This is very unfriendly of you, young man! Why do you have a gun?” The engineer mocked. Treize cocked the gun.
“Get back to the cockpit!”
“And what would I do back there, eh?”
“Do I have to spell it out for you? Land this plane immediately!” Treize replied without hesitation. But the engineer snorted.
“Hah hah! I’m just an engineer, kid. How would I fly this plane? The people who could are already gone!”
Treize ground his teeth. The engineer quickly used his right hand to affix his parachute cord to the handle. Then, as he prepared to jump,
“If you so much as twitch, I will shoot you.”
A look of deadly calm rose to Treize’s face. He looked even more menacing than before. The engineer’s forced grin vanished.
“Look… you wouldn’t open fire inside the plane, would you? One bad ricochet, and it’d take down the plane.” The engineer pointed out.
“That won’t happen. All I have to do is shoot you in the head. Once these bullets get into your skull, they won’t be getting out.” Treize replied nonchalantly.
“A-anyway! This plane is going to crash now that the pilots are gone. Everyone here is going to die!”
“Would you like to be the first?”
The engineer was silent.
“Why are you doing this?”
“…For the money, obviously.”
“I’ll ask you later about your employer. First, put your hands in the air and turn around. Get back in the cockpit.”
“A-and if I refuse?”
“Your inheritance will be mine. I’m sure it’ll be enough to feed me for a very long time.” Treize threatened with a smile on his face. A hint of anxiety rose to the engineer’s face.
But at that moment, the world shook.
The floor seemed to sink beneath them, throwing everyone into the air. Lillia quickly grabbed the handrail. Treize reached for the wall with his left arm—his gun-arm—to support himself.
The engineer threw aside his radio and grabbed a nearby handrail. Then,
With a shout, he pushed forward with his right hand and broke into a run. And he stumbled toward the door.
The moment Treize spotted the man’s charge, he took aim—but when the target overlapped with the interior of the plane, he gave up and ran for the door. And with his left hand on the handrail inside the shaking plane, he stuck out his head into the gust outside.
In the distance was a small circle. A parachute.
Treize pulled himself back inside, armed the safety on his gun, and dropped it into his belt pack. Then he pulled the three parachute cords into the plane and shut the door. The gust ceased.
Like a car driving off-road, the seaplane continued to shake. To make matters worse the fuselage was beginning to tilt forward. Treize climbed up the steep steps toward the cockpit.
Naturally, the cockpit at the top of the stairs was empty. Beyond the empty seats, a circular yoke—shaped much like a steering wheel—rattled unattended.
Treize ran to the pilot’s seat and firmly took hold of the yoke.
“I know I said that I’d love to try flying this thing, but seriously…”
Suppressing the turbulence as best he could, Treize slowly pulled the yoke forward.
“Please stop shaking…”
The turbulence slowly began to weaken. Eventually, the plane had returned to its placid pace.
Treize breathed a sigh of relief. The plane was now stable.
“Hey! What’s going on here?!”
That was when he heard Lillia’s voice from behind. She climbed the steps and poked her head into the cockpit.
“Ugh…” She groaned when she saw the cockpit, with no one but Treize occupying it. She climbed all the way inside and took a seat next to him, putting a hand on his chair. The engines were so loud that she had to shout. “Talk about slacking off on the job. Big time.” Lillia grumbled. Treize looked to his upper right.
“If only things were that easy. There’s no one left now.”
“What’re we going to do?”
“Easy. We do something—anything.”
Lillia nodded and replied, as though none of this was happening to her.
“Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
“Why does this instrument panel have to be so uselessly complicated?” Treize groaned, his eyes passing over the sprawling instruments. He pointed at each one in succession, checking the functions.
“Fuel… we’re still got about half. Altimeter… turn indicator… variometer… airspeed indicator… turn coordinator… clock… the clock’s working, at least. Heading… I knew it—we are headed north. Engine readouts… not every day you get to see four of those in a row. And the throttle lever is overhead—not my style, but what can you do? And… what’s this?”
Treize wrestled with the controls for some time. Several minutes passed.
“All right. I think I’ve got the gist of things.”
“Are you sure?” Lillia asked, worried. Treize replied in his usual tone.
“All planes are the same! …Is what I learned from the guy who taught me to fly.”
“You’re inspiring so much faith, Treize.”
“Anyway, we’ll slowly descend from here—”
“Are we going to keep flying?”
“I don’t know. We should head back to the village if we can turn. If not, we’ll descend into a water landing. This is a seaplane, and we’re on a lake. Everything we see is a potential airstrip. Can you take care of the rest, Lillia? A seaplane this size has got to have a large radio somewhere.” Treize said.
“You mean that thing there?”
Treize turned. Behind him and to his right, in the large radio usually manned by the engineer—
—was an axe with a red handle. The axe that was normally supposed to break the windows in case of an emergency landing.
“Damn it… talk about thorough.” Treize growled.
“Oh! What about that emergency signal thing Mr. Mateo told us about?” Lillia wondered.
“The emergency radio beacon? …I don’t think we’ll find one on an old model like this.” Treize replied, looking around the cockpit. “…Nope.” He added with a deliberate nod. Lillia frowned.
“Then what do we do?”
“We can’t radio for help, but as long as we have fuel we can taxi over water to get to the village. Like a ship.” Treize said. “Lillia. The last man dropped a radio before he jumped. It should still be on the floor.”
“It should be.”
“Could you get it for me? If it’s not broken, it’ll have a range of a couple kilometers. It’ll be useful for when we land and wait for a rescue crew.”
“All right. It looks like things’ll work out. I’ll be right back” Lillia said and turned, but Treize stopped her.
“While you’re at it, could you check on the kids?”
“Check on them… and then what?”
“If they’re panicking, calm them down… and please bring Carlo here.”
Lillia nodded and climbed downstairs.
About thirty seconds later, she returned with the radio in hand. Carlo followed after her.
“What’s going on, big bro? Why’re you the only one here?” Carlo asked. Instead of replying, Treize asked Lillia how the children were.
“They were a little scared because of the turbulence earlier, but I think they’re over it now.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Treize turned to the confused Carlo.
“Actually, we have a problem. Not a big one.”
“Not a big one?” Carlo shot back immediately. “As if. It’s written all over your faces.”
“…Well, true. It’s not not a big one.”
“What’s happening? You can tell me. I’m listening.”
“All right. The people flying this seaplane all took off with parachutes.”
“What? Then we’re a ship without a captain? That’s not good.”
“Yeah. So I have to fly the plane myself. Lillia and I are going to do something about this.” Treize said.
Lillia quietly waited for Carlo to react.
And she was shocked by his response.
“You two know how to fly a plane? I guess that’s rich people for you.” He said nonchalantly.
“I-I guess so, but… anyway, it’s no big deal. There’s nothing to worry about, really. Treize said, playing along.
“So what do you need me to do? You called me up here to do stuff, right?”
“Good to see you’re quick on the uptake. You can leave the flying to us, but since we’re here we can’t keep an eye out on the passenger cabin.”
“I know that. And?”
“So go back to the cabin and take charge of the kids. There might be turbulence like last time, and there might be a big impact when we land on the lake. But there’s nothing to worry about, so calm down the kids if they panic. Tell them to sit in their seats and enjoy the view.”
“Ugh. Really? Leading a bunch of kids? That’s so uncool.”
“Damn it, kid…” Treize shook, holding back his frustration.
“Carlo.” Lillia said then, squatting next to Carlo and meeting his gaze.
“Look at this.”
She held out her hand. Between her thumb and index finger was a coin marked with a leaf.
“This is the coin I was going to give you back in Lartika. Would you accept this job?”
“Well, I can’t exactly turn down cold hard cash.” Carlo grinned. At that moment, Lillia moved her fingertips. What had appeared to be one coin actually turned out to be two.
“One is for showing us around back in Lartika. Don’t tell the policeman, okay?”
“Now you’re talking, big sis!” Carlo replied, quickly snatching the coins. “So you want me to keep the kids calm if something happens? I’ll do it!”
As Carlo turned and climbed down the steps, Lillia said,
“I’m counting on you.”
Carlo gave her a thumbs-up.
“Thanks, Lillia.” Treize said to Lillia, who sat in the co-pilot’s seat to his right. She had the radio on her lap, and her hands were folded pointedly away from the controls.
“Hey, did you really mean what you just said? That this isn’t a big problem?” Lillia asked, staring. Treize met her gaze and lightly shook his head.
“No. Frankly, I don’t even know if I could land a plane this big without an instructor’s help. I’m worried.”
“I knew it.”
“But it’s best to keep them in the dark, don’t you agree?”
“Yeah. To be honest, I didn’t want to know, either.”
“They say that a lie is a tool of sorts, too. I hate to say this, but adults do lie often. Usually to protect themselves, though.” Lillia remarked without much thought. Treize’s expression darkened.
“I see…” He muttered, taking his left hand off the yoke and placing it over his chest in a fist. Lillia did not pay his action much mind and continued.
“I wonder why those pilots all jumped? There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the plane or anything.”
“I don’t know. And why would they jump out in the middle of a charity flight, of all things? It just looks insane to me.”
“They must be in the lake by now. I wonder what’s happened to them.”
“They had emergency life vests, so they’ll stay afloat for a while. But who knows for how long?”
“Well, I’m not going to go rescue them.”
“Neither am I. We should be worrying about ourselves. First, we’ll practice banking. Is that all right with you?”
“Sure. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you can take over. Better than the two of us bickering over the controls together.”
“Well then, the yoke is yours.” Lillia said, making a point of waving her empty hands.
“All right. Here we go.”
Slowly, Treize tilted the yoke and gingerly stepped down on the left pedal. The seaplane tilted to the left little by little, turning in a steady, gentle arc.
“Great. This plane’s a lot nicer than I expected.” Treize commented.
“Do your best.” Lillia cheered.
“Huh? Me?” Treize glanced over.
“No, I’m talking to the plane.” She replied with a glare.
“…Of course, Milady.”
The seaplane continued to turn. The compass needle moved from northwest to west-northwest, then from west-northwest to west. The sun seemed to move for them, shining directly into the cockpit.
“All right. Just a little more…”
The needle was just passing the point marked ‘west’.
That was when streaks of red suddenly passed before their eyes. Light seemed to rain down from overhead.
“What is this?”
Soon, the source of the light came into view. An amphibious fighter plane narrowly passed by overhead.
Treize quickly turned the yoke. The seaplane seemed to stumble for a moment before tilting to the right and returning to level position.
“Treize! It’s that plane—the one we saw yesterday!” Lillia cried sharply, her voice tinged with hatred.
“I noticed. I don’t believe this… how could they just open fire like that? Both today and yesterday.” Treize groaned.
He leaned toward the windshield and surveyed their surroundings. A fighter plane was flying about 50 meters to their left. The fuselage was camouflaged in splotches of light green and brown paint, with the underside painted a murky blue. There was a saw-shaped mark painted on the fin.
An identical plane was following behind it.
“There. Two planes on our left. They must be with the people from yesterday—the ‘villains’ from the Tolcasian Air Force.”
“They’re on our right, too. One… no, two.”
Treize turned. Past Lillia’s head to his right, outside the window, were two more identical planes flying at identical distances.
“Did they just show up?” He wondered. But he quickly shot down his own question. “No, that’s not it. They must have been watching us from above all along. And they must have been floored when I started banking.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s test this out again.”
Once again, Treize attempted a left bank. The moment the seaplane began to tilt, a fighter plane on the left opened fire. Tracer shots whistled past.
“See?” Treize said, pulling the yoke back to the center. The seaplane continued due west.
“Wow, those aeroplanes have floats under them! Cool!”
“Look! He fired his gun! And the bullets are glowing!”
“I know what those are! They glow so you can see where the bullets are going.”
“On this side, too! There’s two more!”
“This is awesome! They’re flying in formation!”
“Let’s wave at them!”
The cabin was whipped up in a frenzy of excitement. And from a seat in the back row, Carlo watched quietly with two coins on the palm of his hand.
“I don’t know, but it looks like I don’t need to do anything here.”
“They opened fire the moment we tried to bank. In other words, they want to keep this plane headed northwest, or west if they can’t help it.” Treize speculated. Lillia was quick to reply.
“I get that. But why?”
Treize thought for a moment before responding.
“This is just a gut feeling, but I think I have the answer. It’s probably for the same reason the crew jumped out. Those planes are going to contact us soon through that.”
He was pointing at the radio on Lillia’s lap. The moment she glanced at it, a male voice suddenly escaped the speaker.
<—seaplane, come in! I assume someone is in the cockpit. Answer!>
“Whoa!” Lillia pulled back.
<Answer! I repeat, answer!> The voice said again. It was a male voice, neither very young nor old.
“What the heck…” Lillia breathed, pointing dubiously at the radio.
“See? It’s them.” Treize said. He picked up a headset from next to his seat and put it on, and wound the microphone around his neck. Then he found the end of the cord, pulled it out, and handed the jack to Lillia.
“Could you plug this in for me?”
<I know you’re listening! I re->
Lillia plugged the jack into an opening on the side of the radio. The radio went silent, but the man’s voice now began to escape from Treize’s headset.
“Argh, that’s loud.” He grimaced.
Lillia put on the co-pilot’s headset and plugged it in as well.
<Can you hear me? Is anyone in the cockpit? Answer if you’re listening!>
Soon, they heard another voice.
<Captain. Maybe we should fire off more warning shots.>
<I see children waving from the cabin, sir.>
<Can we open fire now? There’s no one to see.>
<Only as a last resort. We will not waste bullets. …I repeat, Answer if you’re listening!>
Hearing the four-way conversation over the radio, Lillia turned to Treize.
“What is this? What’s going on?”
Then, it struck her.
Treize nodded firmly.
“Yeah. The crew was working with those people on the fighter crafts. They must have agreed to fly the plane into the middle of the lake and jump off somewhere. That’s what this radio was for. Those fighter planes must have been watching from overhead all along.”
“Why would anyone do something like this?”
“Who knows? Maybe we should have a little chat.” Treize replied, and pressed a switch on his neck.
<This is the seaplane. We hear you loud and clear.>
Bewildered, Lillia stared at Treize contacting the fighter planes.
<Who is this? There were only three crew scheduled to be on the flight. Was there a change of plans?>
The response came from the man earlier addressed as ‘Captain’. His answer confirmed Treize’s suspicions about the crew.
“I knew it.” Treize muttered. Then, he began to spin a web of lies.
<I boarded the plane to chaperone the children. I spotted the crew jumping outside and grabbed the controls. Who are you people? Why did you open fire? From your planes you seem to be part of the Air Force—state your names and affiliation!>
There was a moment of silence. What followed out of the radio was a threat.
<It doesn’t matter who I am. Now, let me tell you something you’ll be grateful for. Do not even think about turning. If you bank or descend, we will shoot you down.>
“Grateful?!” Lillia roared indignantly.
“Calm down. For now, let’s listen to what they have to say.” Treize replied, then turned to the radio with feigned outrage.
<Why should we be grateful?>
<Why not? Do as we tell you, and you will live. There should be some extra parachutes left in the cargo hold. Use them to escape. We will come rescue you on the lake. You will escape with your lives.>
“That stupid idiot! What about the kids? They’re going to leave all the kids to die!” Lillia cried. As the cockpit filled with rage, Treize nodded.
“Without anyone to fly it, this plane will fly further into the lake… and eventually it’ll lose balance or fuel and crash. And it’ll sink. I don’t know why they’re doing this, but these people want the seaplane to crash and disappear.”
<I repeat. Use the parachutes to escape. Resistance is futile!>
The captain’s voice threatened from the speakers, but Treize ignored him.
“Incidentally, if we do escape with the parachutes—”
“They’ll obviously shoot us down in midair or on the water.”
“Yeah. They’ll silence us anyway. I mean, that’s what they want. For everyone to die. The pilot in the middle of nowhere from yesterday, the people who tried to shoot us in the forest—they probably got in touch with this seaplane on the lake to formulate this plan.”
“I see. The crazy pilot thought we’d seen them, and shot Mr. Mateo to silence him.”
“That’s right. That means they’re willing to kill one or more people to fulfill their plan. What in the world are they thinking?”
Lillia ground her teeth audibly even amidst the din of the engines.
<Can you hear me? Respond!>
When the seaplane stopped answering, the pilots began to talk amongst themselves.
<Let’s just shoot it down, captain.>
<No. We still have time.>
<But this will speed things up.>
<I agree. Let’s shoot them down at once.>
<Not yet! I have final say in this matter!> The captain dug in, silencing the others. Treize laughed.
“Looks like some of the men still don’t get the plan. They need this plane to go down in an accident. After all, if people somehow find the wreckage underwater and find signs it was shot down, there’ll be a huge stir.”
“I see. So that’s why they’re not opening fire.” Lillia was impressed. Treize nodded. “But why does the local defense force want to do that?”
This time, Treize shook his head and replied.
“I’m not sure yet. But now we know we have some time. As long as we keep flying straight ahead, they’ll keep telling us to escape with the parachutes until we run out of fuel.”
“Then what do we do?” Lillia pressed. “Even if we stay at the controls until the end, we’re going to crash eventually. Can we last until we reach land?”
“Of course not.” Treize replied firmly.
“Then what do we do?!”
“Calm down, Lillia. Take a deep breath.”
Even in her disbelief, Lillia did as she was instructed.
“All right. Now, exhale.”
Lillia breathed out. She repeated the process about three times.
“Well? Feel calmer now?”
“Indeed I do, good sir.” She replied with a grin. Treize made a face like he had encountered a legendary snow demon from his hometown.
“What’s what supposed to be?”
“Some of the senior-classmen girls at my school talk like this. I was making fun of them.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Indeed, good sir.”
The air in the cockpit grew cold.
“So, now what?” Lillia finally broke the silence, returning to her usual tone.
Treize ignored the radio yet again and replied.
“To be honest… I can’t think of anything that’ll get us out of this spot. We couldn’t possibly take down four fighters with a handgun, and we can’t get to safety on this craft. What about you, Lillia? Any ideas?”
Gravely, Lillia thought for a moment before looking up at Treize.
“What about this radio? Can we call for help? It doesn’t matter who.”
“I told you before, this radio’s range is only a couple of kilometers at most. That’s why they keep contacting us like this.”
“Because there’s no one else around to hear. …Damn it.”
“What to do… We have to keep thinking. Think. Think.”
The slightest hint of desperation rose to Treize’s expression. Lillia shot a glare at the fighter plane to their right.
<We know you’re listening. There is nothing you can do. Abandon the plane and escape. Do not throw away your lives.>
It sounded like a line from a film villain. Lillia retorted angrily.
“Shut up, you liar! I’d rather just ram into one of you and take you down with me! We’re not going to lie down and die like this!” She was almost ready to yell into the microphone on Treize’s neck herself.
“…That’s it!” Treize whispered, raising his head.