Thursday, 11 December 2014

Lillia and Treize I(Part 2): And so the Two Left on a Trip - Chapter 8

(Download the updated version in PDF/epub format here.)

The second-to-last update for this volume of Lillia and Treize. Enjoy.

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Chapter 8: No Other Choice


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A seaplane was flying over the lake.

Its right wing was slightly damaged, but the massive plane continued to fly smoothly.

Next to it flew a fighter plane.

The pitch-black craft was on alert, doing figure-eights in the seaplane’s vicinity.

<All right, Treize. Time for you to show off.> Allison said from the fighter craft. Treize replied from the seaplane.

<We’ve come this far; I’ll land this plane safely no matter what. But to be honest, I’m not sure if I can pull it off. I’m not confident I can.>

“What the heck, Treize? We’re almost done here. You can do it. Remember what you said your flight instructor said? All planes are the same!” Lillia said next to him.

“You’ve got to be kidding…” Treize trailed off. Then he spoke into the microphone. <Allison, do you know anything about this model? Have you ever flown something like this?>

“Probably not.” Lillia quipped.

<I’m sorry, Treize. All I’ve flown lately are fighter planes.>

“See?”

<All right. Listen up, both of you. I’m going to give you an important piece of advice.> Allison said. Lillia and Treize exchanged glances and nodded.

“Wonder what she’s gonna say?”

“I can’t wait to hear it.”

Allison descended in front of the seaplane and advised,

<All planes are the same.>

Then she twirled around excitably.

“Mom…”

“That’s exactly what he said…”

Lillia and Treize cast disappointed glances at the spinning plane.


“Hey big sis! It looked like things were winding down, so I just took a quick break. I swear I did my job!”

“Oh, thanks. But that’s not important right now.”

“Oh.”

Lillia was talking with Carlo in the passenger cabin. Some of the children were looking out the windows, but most were still napping. One of the girls came up to ask how much further they had to go—Lillia replied that they were landing soon.

“Anyway, Carlo, I need your help again. You’re gonna have to get back to work.”

“Okay.”

“Treize is going to land this plane now. We had to change course, and we’re landing on the lake.”

“Okay. And?”

“The plane’s going to shake a little when we land, so wake up the kids now and tell them to put on their seatbelts. And tell them to hold on tight once we descend low and you can see the water.”

“Okay. I have to tell them the plane’s going to shake?”

“Yep. Thanks, Carlo. Wish us luck.” Lillia said, leaving the cabin.


When she returned to the cockpit, the first thing she head was Treize replying to Allison.

<Understood. I can see from here. Continuing descent.>

When Lillia took a seat, she could see land on the horizon, tinted green. It was halfway through the afternoon but the sun was still high in the air.

“How’re the kids? Lifejackets?” Asked Treize.

“The kids are fine. Most of them were asleep. But get this—we don’t have any lifejackets.” Lillia replied.

“Oh. Damn it…” Treize shook his head.

The black fighter plane flew ahead, suddenly plunging toward the horizon. It then began circling over a sandy beach.

“What’s Mom doing?”

“She’s probably dropped something to check wind direction.”

“I see.”

And just as Treize explained, Allison reported in.

<We’ve got light wind on the shore. The water’s calm, too. I want you to make the approach from near the shore with the sun behind you. Just wait there and a rescue party will arrive—I’ve already informed the authorities. The nearest Confederation base is going to send in a seaplane.>

<Roger that. Thank you, Allison.>

Lillia jumped into the conversation.

<Mom, what about the pilots who jumped?>

<The military will pick them up too. The armed MPs will, anyway.>

<All right.>

With that, Lillia fastened her seatbelt. The seaplane slowly began to descend. Land began to fill their sights as they drew near.

Lillia did not insist on helping Treize. she simply sat and watched the yoke shake.

“Lillia.”

“Yeah?”

“I can take the cockpit alone. If I end up crashing nose-first, anyone here’s going to be a goner. You’ll be safer in the cabin—”

“Shut up. I’m not leaving you.” Lillia cut him off.

<Bank to the left. Easy does it.>

Treize did as Allison instructed, banking left. The seaplane continued to fly smoothly. It looked as though the land was moving to their right.

<And turn again. …Good. Excellent job.>

With the nose pointed due east, the seaplane flew almost parallel to the lakeshore. Altitude was at 300 meters.

<Thank you. I’ll maintain heading and slow into descent.>

Treize gently operated the throttle levers and the control stick. Both altitude and speed began to fall.

The narrow strip of sand was dotted with rocks. Beyond was a verdant forest. Lillia looked over the land.

“I don’t see any houses or villages. It’s all trees from here.”

“That’s Tolcasia for you. Wanna take another walk after we land?” Treize joked.

“I think I’ll wait for the rescue planes this time.” Lillia replied.

“Well, let’s get started.” Treize said, tense.

“Don’t worry. We already went through a lot to get here. You can do it. Give it your best shot.”

“You’re talking to the plane, aren’t you?”

“I’m talking to you.” Lillia said.

Treize turned, as though he remembered something.

“Come to think of it… what about the kiss?”

“Not yet. We’re not out of hot water yet.”

“Tch.”

“Just the landing now.”

“Okay. Then I guess I’ll have to do my best.” Treize said with a smile, and turned his gaze forward. And with a glare at the horizon and the instrument panel, he pressed the call button.

<I’ll do it. For the prize.>

<All right. Slow and steady, okay? We can do this as many times as it takes.>

“Hey, you don’t need to get into the details!” Lillia snapped. At the same time, she noticed an unusually determined look on his face.


Treize took a deep breath and pressed the call button again.

<Captain Schultz of the Confederation Air Force. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for your support. The blood of Ikstova is once again in your debt. I will not forget your kindness to the end of my days. Thank you.>

<You’re welcome. I expected no less from a knight in shining armor. Tell your parents I’m expecting a helping of stewed cheese later, okay?>

<Of course. End communications.>

“Knight in shining armor’s way too good for him.” Lillia muttered quietly.

Altitude 100 meters. The seaplane was closer vertically to the shore than lengthwise.

“You can do it, right?” Asked Lillia.

“Yeah. As long as I can raise the nose at the right moment just before we land.”


Meanwhile, in the cabin—

“Guys! We’re gonna land now, so take your seats and fasten your seatbelts! Hurry! Wake up anyone who’s still asleep!”

Carlo was giving orders to the other children. Those who were lying on the seats and those who were left to sleep on the floor all opened their eyes, slowly sitting and putting on their seatbelts. Some of the children at the window seats cheered when they saw how close they were to the lake.


Fifty meters. There was more lake than sky in the cockpit window now.

Twenty meters. As the plane descended lower than the fuselage was long, the forest passed beside them rather than under.

“All right! Raise the nose and…”

Slowly, Treize pulled on the yoke.

The plane tilted up from being parallel to the water, and the angle between the wings and the lake began to widen.

As though running into an embrace, the seaplane approached the surface. The air between the wings and the lake created white ripples on the water and turned to sprays.

The seaplane hit the lake. The back of the fuselage was first, cutting through the water in a wake of white waves.

Soon, the front of the fuselage hit the lake as the plane slowed against the water. It finally landed with a massive splash.

“There!”

With his hands firmly on the yoke Treize stopped the plane from bouncing back from the recoil. Then he set the throttle levers to the lowest output.

The massive seaplane moved across the lake, slowing down against the water as it barreled forward.

“I can do this… probably.” Treize mumbled. As the fuselage shook, it tilted forward because of deceleration.

“You can! Land this thing!” Lillia replied, clutching her seat and watching the water pass by.


Allison circled clockwise overhead and watched as the seaplane left white splashes in its wake. It was clearly slowing down.

“I can’t believe he made it on his first try. At this rate—”

She stopped.

In the brown water ahead of the seaplane were different colors. Splotches of grey. The shore there was not made of sand, but a cluster of jutting rocks.

Allison pressed the call button.

<Seaplane, turn left! Left pedal!>


“!”

Reacting to the sudden command, Treize did as ordered. When he stepped down on the left pedal, the seaplane’s fin tilted left and caused the fuselage to tilt to the right. The float under the right wing supported the craft.

Inside the tilted plane, Lillia cried into the microphone.

<What’s going on, Mom?>

But before she could hear an answer, the seaplane shook.

They could hear an impact under the cockpit. For a moment they felt like they were floating.

“No! It’s caught on something below!” Treize said immediately. The ‘something’ hit the bottom of the fuselage multiple times, shaking Lillia and the plane.

“Argh! Whoa! Ack!”

<Rocks!> Allison cried from above. Jagged rocks had been hiding beneath the surface—they were connected to the rocks on the shore.

The seaplane moved past the rocks and turned slightly further into the lake.

“Damn it! Why now?” Treize swore anxiously.

The seaplane continued skidding across the surface of the lake. But they could clearly sense vibrations that were not there before.

“Hey, what’s happening?” Asked Lillia.

“Those rocks hit the underside! They probably left holes on the fuselage.”

Lillia was lost for words.

<—seaplane, can you hear me? Are you all right?>

<The underside is breached! The plane might sink!> Treize replied immediately.

At the same time, he looked past Lillia’s head and out the window. The flat, sandy beach was about 300 meters away.

<I’ll run the craft aground before that!> Treize added, and pulled the throttle levers back to medium output.

The engines began to growl again, and the propellers spun faster. Treize stepped down on the right pedal.

The seaplane tilted left as it turned right. And, shaking in every direction, it struggled toward the beach.

The engines roared and the plane sped up. For a moment it felt as though they were on track, but in three seconds the seaplane slowed down again.

“No good, huh.”

As though someone were holding onto it by its ankles, the seaplane slowed to a crawl.

“We won’t make it.”

“Why not?”

“The holes on the underside are creating too much resistance. We can’t move forward. This plane’s going to sink soon.”

With over 100 meters to go before the shore, the seaplane came to a nearly complete stop. The propellers alone continued to flounder through the air. The fuselage began tilting forward.

Treize pressed the emergency engine cutoff switch. The four engines and the propellers shook violently and stopped. At the same time, the seaplane stopped moving forward.

“There’s nothing we can do. It’s dangerous in here.”

As the ever-present hum of the engines disappeared and stillness fell over the cockpit, Treize undid his seatbelt and stood. Lillia stood after him.

“Are we going to sink?”

“I don’t know, but we have to get out of here first.”

“Right. …Oh, the kids!”

“Hope they didn’t bump their heads or anything back there…”

Lillia turned and ran down the steps. Treize went after her.

The moment they passed the cargo hold and opened the cabin door—

“Hey big sis! Have we landed? You were right—that was really shaky.” Said Carlo. the other children chimed in in agreement and glared.

“Is everyone all right? No one’s hurt?” Lillia asked loudly. The children looked around at one another. One of them answered that they were fine.

“Thank goodness.” Lillia sighed.

“Not quite yet.” Treize said, firmly shutting the door behind them. The fuselage continued to tilt. The water was almost up to the window next to Lillia.

“Listen up, everyone! We’re going to open up the back hatch, so you have to get out of this plane! It’s dangerous to stay in here!” Treize said, running down the aisle to the back of the plane.

“You heard him. We’re getting out of here.” Carlo spurred on the children.

“Too bad.”

“Are we getting off already?”

“I’m hungry.”

“Where are we?”

The children grumbled as they lined up along the aisle, with Lillia bringing up the rear. There were so many of them that once they were in the aisle, they couldn’t take a step forward.

The moment Treize made it to the right hatch at the back of the cabin, he grabbed the lever with both hands. It was made so that twisting and pushing the lever at the same time forced the hatch open.

“What?”

But the lever did not budge. Even the emergency escape hatch had been locked from the outside.

“I should’ve shot them when I had the chance…” Treize growled, fists pounding against the exit. The wooden hatch shook heavily.

Lillia raised her voice from behind the children, who were gathered near the back seats.

“What’s wrong?”

“The hatch won’t open. It’s stuck.”

“What?”

“I’m gonna have to force my way.”

“Huh?”

“I’ll just take out my anger on this!”

Reaching into his belt pack, Treize pulled out his handgun.

Then with his left hand he gestured away the cheering children.

Holding the gun tightly with both hands, he undid the safety and took aim at the lever.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Shots shook the cabin in succession. The slide rose and fell six times, then finally stopped at the bottom. The lower wooden part of the lever shattered.

Treize took a step back, then drew back his right foot and leapt forward with his left.

“Hah!”

And in midair, he held out his right foot. The kick landed square on the middle of the hatch, sending it flying with nothing but the lever mechanism left on the plane. Treize landed gently on both feet on the carpeted floor.

“Wow!”

“You’re so cool, mister!”

“Amazing!”

The children cheered and clapped. Sunlight spilled inside the darkened cabin, illuminating him. Humid air began pushing inside.

“All of you, climb onto the top of the plane.”

Treize threw his gun to the carpet, then lifted a nearby child over the hatch. The child climbed outside and onto the top of the seaplane.

“Next. Hold on tight so you don’t slip and fall. Next. That’s three.”

Treize continued to lift the children onto the top of the plane.

“What are we going to do after everyone’s up?” Asked Lillia.

“Well, we climb to the top with them. Then…”

“Then?”

“Well, I hope the plane doesn’t sink.”

“So we’re working off hopes, not plans.”


The seaplane was about 100 meters from the beach. The top of the nose was submerged, and the cockpit window was touching the water.

“Oh, they’re out.”

As Allison circled the air, she spotted the rear hatch fly open and the children climbing onto the top of the plane. soon, the children were steady atop the fuselage and the large tail.


“And that’s twenty-two! Man, what a workout.” Treize sighed, after lifting the twenty-second child to safety. Beads of sweat dripped down his face.

The tilt was worsening by that point. Lillia was clinging to the seats.

“Your turn, Carlo.”

“Got it.”

Treize lifted Carlo by the underarms and raised him over the hatch. Carlo easily climbed up.

“You’re next, Lillia. …Want some help?”

“I’m fine.”

Lillia stepped over the backs of the seats and the frame of the hatch and climbed up with ease.

Treize picked up the gun at his feet, placed it back in his belt pack, and scanned the cabin one last time. Then he whispered to the empty seats,

“…Thank you. I’m sorry I couldn’t land you properly.”

And he was out.


Outside, the back of the fuselage and the tail were crowded with children. Because the plane was tilted forward, there was an incredible view of the scenery from the tail. They were about 4 meters from the surface of the water.

There was no wind. They could hear the dry hum of the black fighter craft overhead.

The seaplane’s outer panels jutted out at regular intervals, which made it easy to climb. Treize sat with his feet on one such panel and turned toward the nose.

He could see the wings spread out over the fuselage, and the stopped engines. The nose was almost completely underwater now, as were the cockpit windows. They were 100 meters to the forest, with murky water between them.

“…”

Treize turned to the tail.

Lillia seemed to be bored. She sat between two girls about ten years old.

“Allison must have told the rescue team our location by now.”

“Yeah.”

Lillia looked up at the black fighter plane circling the air.

“But it’ll be bad if this seaplane sinks before they get here.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll hold out until they do!” Treize said with surprising confidence. Lillia frowned.

“What if we don’t? If the plane sinks—”

“It won’t!”

“You have proof?”

“No.”

“Then don’t act like it’s a fact. You’re acting really weird, Treize.”

“Really? …But you know, we’ve gone through so much already. Even the most evil god in the world wouldn’t put us through any more suffering.”

Immediately, the plane shifted violently and tilted right. As buoyancy and water pressure played a game of tug-of-war, the right float supports broke.

“Eek!”

“Ah!”

“Whoa!”

Several children screamed as they fell into the lake, sending up columns of water.

“Oh no!”

Lillia pulled the girls next to her close and clung to the plane. At the same time, she leaned forward to search for the fallen children. Their heads bobbed on the water’s surface.

“Guys! Grab onto something! We’ll pull you right up!” She cried desperately.

“Don’t worry.”

“It’s fine.”

“There’s nothing to get worried about.”

Said the children around her side.

“What? …Ah!”

The plane tilted again, and yet more children fell. They quickly rose to the surface and raised their heads.

“Big sis, is the plane really okay?” Carlo asked, holding on to the tail. Lillia shook her head.

“I don’t think it’ll hold.”

“Then what are we sitting around here for? Let’s go, guys. We’ll head for the beach!”

“What? But—”

Lillia was quickly cut off.

“Okay.”

“Sure.”

“Why not?”

“Let’s go swimming.”

“All right!”

“Here I go!”

The children nodded one after another and jumped into the water.

“Yeah!”

“Whee!”

“Yahoo!”

Even the children who sat swinging their legs from the tail dropped down head-first from almost 5 meters in the air. They could hear splashes everywhere.

“Hey, the water’s warm!”

“Race you to the shore!”

“This is great!”

“Wow!”

Children chirped and chattered on the water. Listening to their voices, and looking at their smiles, Lillia furrowed her brow.

“…You know how to swim? …All of you?”

Carlo was astonished.

“Obviously. We all grew up on the lakeside. Swimming’s about the only thing you can do when you’re bored, and you can find food and make money if you catch fish. This is nothing.”

Immediately, the girls next to Lillia leapt into the lake.

“See you in the lake, Lillia.”

“Yay!”

Eventually, only three people were left on the tilting plane. Carlo, who stood holding the tail, and Lillia and Treize, sitting on the fuselage. The rest of the children were all swimming toward shore.

“Can you swim, big sis?” Asked Carlo. 

“I-I go to a secondary school famous for academics and athletics. For your information, I was offered spots on the swim team and the water polo team. Although I didn’t join.”

“I don’t really get it, but as long as you know how to swim. Can I go now?”

“Er, yeah.” Lillia nodded.

Carlo took off his hat and rolled up his sleeves.

“Then be careful on the way. I’ll see you on the beach. Oh, and make sure you take off your jackets and your shoes.”

With that, Carlo leapt head-first into the water. He rose to the surface much closer to shore, swimming to the beach in an expert freestyle.

“They’re such energetic kids…” Lillia said, watching him depart. “Well, let’s get going.”

But the moment she looked back at Treize—

“…”

He was just laughing.

“Treize?”

It was an empty laugh. When Lillia called his name, Treize continued hoarsely.

“Hah hah hah…”

“Treize. …Please don’t tell me you’re about to say, ‘I can’t swim’.”

He soon spoke.

“Even in midsummer, Lake Ras is freezing cold. Yeah. And there’s really not much in the way of fishing, either. The only way to have fun on the lake is skating on it when it freezes over.”

Lillia understood. She deflated.

“So you can’t.”

“It’s all right!”

“What is?”

“I’ll stay behind. I mean, the water’s not that deep. The nose’ll sink first, so I can just cling to the tail…”

“Don’t be stupid! What happens when even the tail sinks?” Lillia cried. At that very moment, the plane shook and the front of the plane sank completely. The water rose to the heated engines, evaporating loudly on contact.

“It’s sinking fast! Treize!”

Treize shook his head uncomfortably.

“…I’m a confident marksman and hunter. Once, I got a deer with one shot from 400 meters away. I shared the meat with everyone in the valley. They all said I was amazing.”

“Who asked about that stuff?”

“I also know how to speak Ikstovan, even though it’s not used anymore. Although my old teacher’s the only one who speaks it with me.”

“Who cares about that?! We have to jump, Treize! Swim!”

“That’s a tall order.”

“Do it!”

“Tomorrow? …Civilized people shouldn’t get into water too deep to stand in.”

“Get a hold of yourself! You at least know what swimming looks like, right? You’ve seen people swim? You know, like a frog! Answer me!”

Treize nodded.

“Good! You just have to keep your head out of the water and move your arms and legs as much as you can! You won’t die as long as you can keep breathing! Okay?”

Treize would not budge. Lillia went over to him and pulled his button-up shirt.

“Take this off!”

A couple of buttons went flying, but she succeeded in pulling the shirt over his head. Once she got the shirt off(leaving a T-shirt), she got to work on unlacing his shoes. Treize remained sitting. Then she took off his boots and socks.

“This, too!”

Lillia unbuckled the belt pack around Treize’s waist.

“My gun… I don’t really want to lose that.”

“Then I’ll take it.”

Lillia put the belt pack around her own waist. It fell to her hips, too loose for her size.

Then, she took out a handkerchief and tied her hair into a ponytail.

“Let’s go! Don’t struggle, okay?” She cried.

“Huh?”

She grabbed him by the belt and leapt into the water.

“Whoa!”

“Take a deep breath!”

With a splash, they fell side-first into the lake.

“Pffha!

“Pfwaa!”

They lifted their head above the water.

“C’mon!”

Lillia pounded on Treize’s back.

“Damn it! Argh!”

Treize waved his arms and legs desperately. His form was sloppy to put mildly, but being athletic he was at least quick.

“Argh! Pffha! Ack, agh!”

Imitating something between a dog paddle and a breaststroke, he pressed forward. Sometimes his face fell under the surface and he emerged to spit out water.

“Keep going! You can do it! Go!” Lillia cheered, doing a perfect breaststroke behind him.

“Gah! Agh!”

“See? You’re doing it!” Lillia cried.

“Hah! Hah!”

Looking just about ready to cry, Treize breathed like a carp begging for food. Lillia could see clearly.

“Go! Keep at it! You’re doing really well!”

Between breaths Lillia made sure to encourage Treize. And on occasion, she stopped to see if her feet could touch the bottom of the lake.

The shore came closer, little by little. The children who had already made it were watching from the beach.

“Man, they’re slow.” Carlo mumbled, scratching his head.

“Almost there! Come on!”

“Hah! Hah!”

About halfway to the beach—

“Hm?”

They heard something behind them, like a large balloon popping in slow motion. Like air escaping something. Lillia twisted herself around and looked back.

“Oh…”

The massive seaplane, which had been cruising through the air not long ago, was sinking completely. Tilted at a full 90 degrees, only the back of the fuselage was visible. But soon even that was sucked into the waves.

“…”

The round windows on the side, the open hatch, and the tail. In the span of three seconds the plane disappeared completely.

“Thank you…” She whispered, and turned back toward the shore. The plane was sunk, but Treize was afloat. Lillia followed after him in freestyle.

“Almost there! You can do it!”

“Argh! Hah! Glug! Hah! Gah!”

Crying out a series of half-screams, Treize moved forward.

They were just 20 meters from shore. Lillia stopped and checked underfoot. The tip of her toes brushed against the bottom of the lake.

She swam past Treize in freestyle. By the time she stopped, her feet were solidly on the lakebed. She stood and raised her head completely above the water.

“We can stand now!” She cried, turning. “…Treize?”

There was no one there. The placid lake continued on to the horizon.

“Huh?

For a second, she spotted a fingertip rising to the surface of the lake. It soon disappeared.

“How?”

Treize was drowning in the shallows, where his feet could touch the bottom. Lillia ran as fast as she could. The water was so murky that she could not see below, so she frantically waved her arms under the water.

“Oh!”

Her fingertips brushed against something. But she could not grab ahold of it. She searched the area again, but found nothing.

“Tch!”

Leaning forward, she groped through the water with her right arm. She turned in a circle for five seconds, but she felt nothing.

“Argh…”

Lillia took a deep breath and dove in. The water was so murky she couldn’t see further than 20 centimeters, but she still searched the water with eyes wide open.

A leg. Someone’s right leg suddenly appeared before her and kicked her in the forehead.

“!”

Lillia did not miss her chance. Quickly, she grabbed it by the ankle with both hands.

“Gah!”

She broke the surface and searched for land. It was right behind her. With Treize’s ankle in her hands, Lillia trudged across the sandy lake toward the shore.


“Seriously. It takes talent to go under when you’re this close to shore.” Carlo muttered, looking down on Treize on the beach.

Lillia came ashore with her back to the beach. Soon, Treize—pulled by his ankles by Lillia—also emerged. His T-shirt was rolled up to his armpits.

Treize’s eyes were closed peacefully, as though he was asleep.

“Argh!”

With all her strength, Lillia dragged him onto the sand. The water still reached his face. She quickly crouched next to him and turned him the other way, grabbing him under the arms.

“Hah… hah…”

She panted as she sat on the shore, but quickly knelt next to Treize and looked at his face. Carlo and the children gathered around them.

“Treize! Wake up!”

She slapped him. There was a resounding smack. His face shook slightly, but he did not respond.

“Open your eyes.”

Smack. Smack. No response.

Carlo squatted on the other side and put his fingers in front of Treize’s nostrils and his mouth, then placed his middle finger under his face.

“No good. He’s not breathing. His lungs are stopped, too.” He said, looking up at Lillia. His voice sounded final.

“No… Treize, you idiot! How could you die so easily?!” Lillia cried, pale.

“Calm down, big sis. He’s not gone yet. You just have to give him the kiss and chest press to wake him up.” Carlo said matter-of-factly.

“What?”

“You breathe air into his lungs by the mouth. Then you press on his chest to force his heart to move. Smart people call this CPR. You know that much, right?”

Immediately, the other children nodded and voiced their agreement.

“I-I know how it works, but I’ve never tried it. What about you, Carlo?”

“I have, but I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough. You’re the only one who can save big bro. I’ll teach you, okay?”

“A-all right… what do I do?” Asked Lillia.

Carlo explained. First, she should tilt Treize’s head back with one hand and lift his chin with the other. Lillia did as instructed. Carlo looked into Treize’s mouth to check if he hadn’t vomited.

“The rest is simple. Pinch his nose, put your mouth over his, and blow as hard as you can. Check to see if his chest is moving.”

“O-okay…”

Lillia pinched Treize’s nose and looked at his mouth. she froze.

“I’m… supposed to kiss him, right?”

“Duh. That’s how every prince wakes up.”

“You mean princess?”

“Who cares.” Carlo replied. “You’d better do it quick, or he really is gonna die.”

“It was supposed to be the forehead…”

“What’re you talking about?”

“Never mind.”

Lillia shut her eyes and took a deep breath.

Then she put her mouth over Treize’s. With eyes closed tight and body completely tense, she breathed out deeply twice.

“All right. The air’s in.” Carlo said, checking that Treize’s chest was moving. “Next, press on his chest.”

Carlo groped over Treize’s bare torso and found the center of the chest, above the solar plexus. He tapped the spot with his fist.

“Over here. Put your palms here, one over the other, and push. You can’t bend your arms and you have to use all your strength. Enough to break his ribs. On my signal, okay?”

“…”

Looking ready to cry, Lillia did as Carlo said. She placed her palms on his chest, one over the other, and pressed down with all her weight at Carlo’s signal.

“Press!”

Treize’s chest seemed to sink far enough for his ribcage to break. Lillia grimaced, wondering if she wasn’t doing more harm, but Carlo continued to give signals, three in two seconds.

“No breaks. Press. Press. Press. Press.”

Lillia desperately followed Carlo’s directions. Ten seconds later,

“All right, that’s fifteen. Back to the mouth! Hurry!” Carlo urged, excited. Lillia went back to doing mouth-to-mouth.

“Chest again!”

Two deep breaths, followed by chest compression. Carlo clapped to keep the beat.

“Good. You’re doing great. Mouth again.”

More mouth-to-mouth with Treize and compression.

“Mouth.”

“Chest.”

Lillia continued to repeat the process, moving back and forth as Carlo instructed.

After four chest compressions and five kisses—

“Gah!”

Treize shuddered and exhaled.

“Eek!” Lillia swung back before she could perform another chest compression.

“Gah! Koff!”

Treize coughed violently and seized.

“Hah… hah…”

Then he knelt on the beach with his head on the sand, breathing heavily for some time.

Lillia was frozen, having landed on her rear. She stared at Treize.

“Whew…”

And she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hey. You all right, big bro?” Carlo asked, tapping him on the back. Treize panted loudly.

“Koff… I feel sick. My stomach feels heavy… I’m gonna hurl.”

“Then go throw up.”

Carlo managed to help Treize to his feet in spite of his height. Treize staggered into the water, knelt in the shallows, and began to vomit.

The children giggled as Treize emptied his stomach.

“Whoa.”

“He’s puking!”

“I feel bad for him.”

“Too bad; lunch was really good.”

Carlo returned to Lillia’s side. She was still uncertain.

“Is… is he going to be okay?”

“He wasn’t in there long, and if he’s coughing up all that water, he’ll be fine. Although he’s gonna feel sick for a while. Good job, big sis. That was great for your first time.”

With her soaked bangs clinging to her forehead and sand covering her cheeks, Lillia looked up at Carlo.

“Thank you… thank you, Carlo. If not for you…”

“This one’s on the house. I’m charging for the next time, okay/”

The moment Lillia stood, the handkerchief tying her hair came loose. Her long hair flopped down and stuck to the back of her wet shirt.

Treize had taken off his T-shirt as he stood with his feet in the water. He wrung it out and was wiping his face with it. Lillia began walking over to him. Carlo followed.

She stood behind him, to his left, and asked,

“Treize… are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh, er… yeah. The inside of my mouth stings a little, though.” He said, turning to Lillia with a smile. His hair was soaked and stuck to his face.

“…”

Because he had taken off his T-shirt, Lillia’s eyes were immediately drawn to his well-defined abs and toned but lean chest.

“Oh… er… That’s good to hear.” She replied, looking away with her face flushed.

“I was drowning back there, wasn’t I?” Treize asked.

“Yeah.” Lillia answered. “You were doing fine until we were this close to shore. I dragged you out of there.”

“I see. Thank you, Lillia. Man, I don’t believe this… I’m ashamed of myself.” Treize mumbled. He was almost pitiful to look at.

“As long as you made it out in one piece, you know?” Lillia said, trying to cheer him up.

“True. But I really thought I was going to die back there. I was sinking, and by the time it was dark and I couldn’t hear anything, I dreamt that someone was beating me up. It hurt so much that I woke up, and I was on the beach.”

“You don’t remember?”

“Remember what?”

“No, well… I see. You were unconscious, I mean. It’s all good. I’m glad you’re safe.” Said Lillia.

Carlo finally chimed in.

“You’d better seriously thank big sis. She was so desperate, you know? You know how many times she ki-mmph!”

Lillia quickly covered his mouth and knelt down next to him.

“I’m fine if he doesn’t remember!”

“…”

Carlo made a face, but when Lillia took her hand off his mouth he shrugged.

“All right. I guess we can just leave it at that.”

He left them be, walking over to the children who were throwing sand at one another on the beach.

Lillia looked back at the dejected Treize. Suddenly, their eyes met.

She quickly looked away.

“Oh.”

That was when the golden pendant around Treize’s neck came into view. It was a golden coin on a thin, glittering golden chain. On the face of the coin was an intricate carving of a hawk with its wings spread.

“Hey, nice pendant.”

“Hm? Oh, this.” Treize seemed to have only just noticed that his pendant was visible. “This is… like a lucky charm. Is it weird for a guy to wear a pendant like this?”

“No. It’s really nice. Where’d you get it? Iks?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah.”

“Wow, I want one too. Show me where you bought it next time I come visit.”

Treize silently looked at her.

“What’s wrong? …I-is it really expensive?” Lillia stammered.

“No.”

Smiling, Treize looked down at his chest.

He held up the coin with his left hand and looked at the hawk carved on the face, then let it drop.

“I’ll give you one someday, Lillia. I promise.”

“Really? That’s a promise, okay? Even if it’s super-expensive. You can’t back out later!”

“Yeah. Don’t forget.”

“Of course I won’t! I’m going to remember this moment forever!” Lillia laughed, and slapped Treize in the back.

There was a resounding smack.


Immediately, a deafening noise shook the air. The black fighter craft was flying low, crossing over the lake from left to fight. When Lillia and Treize waved at the plane, its wings moved in response.

The children cheered. Allison’s fighter plane changed direction in the distance, this time approaching the beach from the west.

Something dropped from the plane as it flew a hundred meters overhead. It was a cylindrical case that looked almost like a baton, suspended on a red-and-white parachute.

It fluttered over their heads and landed in the sand a short distance away.

“It’s a communication cylinder.” Treize said. The children raced to retrieve the message.

Treize put on his T-shirt again. It was dyed a reddish-brown from the lake water. He walked over to where Lillia and the children were huddled.

“Let me see that for a minute. I just want to take out the letter; you can have the cylinder back.” He said to the first child to grab the message, and plucked out the letter before returning the container.

“What’s it say?” Asked Lillia as Treize unfolded the paper.

“‘Remain where you are. The storks will rescue you soon. Good work. -Allison’.”

“Thank goodness.” Lillia said, turning her gaze upwards once more.

The black fighter plane circled the air again, heading toward the beach. This time it sped up and zoomed over the heads of the waving children. Then it banked for a hard turn. The children cheered.

Lillia and Treize followed the plane with their eyes.

The fighter craft climbed higher and higher before disappearing into the sun shining in the west.


Silence returned to the beach.

“I’m exhausted.” Treize mumbled, sitting on the sand, and blankly looked at the sky. The summer sun cast a warm light on his soaked clothes and body.

The children were enjoying themselves, some napping on the beach and others sitting in circles to chat. Some of the more energetic ones were swimming in the lake.

“How are you, Treize? Feeling better now?” Lillia asked as she sat next to him.

“Yeah. I’m not feeling queasy anymore, at least. Now… I’m just hungry.”

“Hah hah. Then I guess you’re all right. I’m really glad. And here you go.”

Lillia held out his belt pack.

“Thank you.”

Treize took it.

Suddenly, they caught the children’s voices.

“Isn’t the Master incredible?”

“Why?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Think about it. He crashed that big aeroplane into the water just so we could have a good time!”

The children gasped and nodded.

“Hah hah!” Treize barked.

Lillia put on a wry grin.

“This is great. Let’s just play along with that if the kids ask any questions.”

“I’m sure that’ll put Mr. Morseau at ease, too.”

“Yeah. We all got out of that safe.”

“It’s all thanks to you, Treize. Good job.”

“It was nothing.”

One of the girls called Lillia over.

“Hm? I’ll be right there.”

Lillia stood and left Treize’s side with a light wave.

Once she was gone,

“That’s the first time she said, ‘good job’ to me.” He muttered to himself. Then he frowned. “In any case… who in the world could have come up with that plan and convinced the captain and the other pilots? And how could they have bought out even the seaplane’s crew?”

As he lost himself in thought, he saw little specks in the eastern sky.

“Oh well. I’ll look into it later.”

The specks grew larger and larger, eventually becoming mid-sized seaplanes. They were about 15 meters long, with propellers on the front and back of the engine affixed atop the fuselage. They were all marked with the emblem of the Roxchean military, and the unit’s symbol—a stylized stork—was painted on the fins.

The four identical seaplanes landed in the water one after another, avoiding the rocks.

Rubber boats then emerged from the seaplanes and headed for the beach. Each of the four boats were occupied by soldiers in work wear. They beached the boats onto the shore.

“Snack time, kids!”

As the soldiers landed, they began handing out cookies and bottled juice to the awestruck children. And within seconds the boats were surrounded by cheering children.

Then, a man about thirty years of age wearing a black-and-red Confederation Air Force uniform, with his badge of rank identifying him as a first lieutenant, saluted Lillia and Treize.

“You must be Mr. Treize and Miss Lillia. I’ve come to get you on Captain Schultz’s orders. We’ll be taking the two of you to Bren, and the children to Healer Village.”

“Thank you.”

“We appreciate your help.”

Said Lillia and Treize.

“Then I’d like to ask you to board the boat now. We’ll set off as soon as you’re on the seaplane.” Said the first lieutenant.

“Before that… could we say goodbye to the kids?” Asked Lillia.

“Of course.” The first lieutenant smiled.

Lillia thanked him and ran over to the children, who looked like they were enjoying a picnic.

Immediately, the first lieutenant walked over to Treize. With his back turned to him the first lieutenant whispered.

“Sir. The Roxchean military’s intelligence department is working to resolve today’s incident. Please leave the rest to us.”

“I knew it.” Treize’s gaze narrowed. “So that’s how Allison arrived so quickly. There were people behind the scenes who knew what was going on. And by ‘leave the rest to us’ you mean, ‘keep you nose out of this business’. Am I right?”

The first lieutenant’s gaze was fixed ahead.

“We would be grateful if you took it that way, yes.”

“When will you make the official announcement?”

“The crew of the seaplane will be officially tried and punished. And as for the rest…”

“You’ll make it so that ‘nothing ever happened’.”

“That is the best choice for a great many people involved. Like you, Miss Lillia, and Captain Schultz.”

“So a lie is a tool of sorts too, huh. …But what about us? The people who got plenty involved in this mess? Are you going to keep us in the dark, too? Will we never know the truth?”

The first lieutenant was expressionless and silent.

“Heh… I understand.” Treize sighed. “I’m going to say goodbye to the kids, too.”

“Go right ahead.” The first lieutenant said with a smile.


“Seriously? You’re both leaving already?” Carlo pouted, holding a cookie in each hand.

Lillia squatted next to him to say goodbye.

“I’m sorry, Carlo. We’re not from here, so we have to go separately now. I’ll write to you once I get back to the Capital District. So study hard with the others when you get back to the facility. Then you’ll be able to make lots more money once you’re an adult.”

“If you say so. …I mean, I wasn’t even gonna tell you guys my name at first anyway. Parting is a part of life.”

“Look at you, acting all mature. You should try for the cutesy act sometimes.” Treize chuckled.

Carlo stared up at him without a word. Then, he stuffed both cookies into his mouth and swallowed them.

“Big bro. I need to talk to you. C’mere for a minute.” Carlo said, dragging Treize away.

“What?”

“Shut up and follow me.”

As Carlo pulled Treize along, Lillia wondered to herself,

“Hm? Is this what boys’ friendships are like?”


“Hey Carlo, isn’t this far enough?” Treize complained, once they were about five meters from the other children. Carlo finally came to a stop.

“Hey!”

Carlo turned and shot Treize a glare.

“You know, don’t you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb!” Carlo shot back, punching Treize in the gut. Treize looked unperturbed.

“What, that you’re actually ‘Carla’?”

“Ack! I knew it! …How? How did you know?” Carlo demanded.

“I had a feeling from the moment I first spotted you. But I wasn’t completely sure until I saw you staring at Lillia’s hair. You looked really envious.”

“Tch! Long hair doesn’t look good on me anyway.” Carlo said, scratching her sandy wet hair with an embarrassed look.

“I won’t tell Lillia.”

“Really?”

“I promise.”

“Y-you’d better! Next time I see her, I’m gonna have long, pretty hair and surprise her!”

Treize burst into laughter.

“Hah hah hah! It’ll look good on you. I’m sure Lillia’s going to be floored.”

“…Then we’re good. Not a word, okay? Don’t tell her that I’m a girl! This is a man-to-man promise!”

“That doesn’t quite make sense.”

“Shut up! Who cares? I’m just saying man-to-man to make thing easier. ‘Cause right now, I’m Carlo!”

“All right, all right. This is a man-to-man promise between Carlo and Treize. I promise I’ll take your secret to the grave if necessary. I won’t tell.”

Treize declared, placing his left hand in a fist over his chest. Then he slowly knelt in front of Carlo and met her gaze.

“Then let me tell you my secret, too. I’m actually a prince. You can’t tell Lillia, okay?” He said with a wink. “But I don’t have much time left. I have to make a very important decision before I turn twenty. This is actually the last chance I’ll have to spend time with Lillia like this.”

“Wow… this is great!” Carlo grinned.

“What?”

“It’s awesome! That’s definitely gonna win her over. It’s a fun story, and you sound so cool when you’re saying it! It’s really good.”

Treize was at a loss.

“Oh, right. …Yeah. I’ll try it out sometime if I get the chance.”

“Sometime? C’mon, you gotta tell her tonight! Tonight! You gotta catch opportunity when it strikes. It doesn’t come every day, you know!” Carlo snickered, poking Treize in the chest. “But if you can’t manage to win her over, I’ll take you. You’re a pretty good guy, big bro!” Carlo beamed.

“I see. …Thank you.” Treize said with a complicated expression. “I’d better get going. You guys follow the soldiers after snack time—they’ll take you to the Master and the matrons at the facility. They’ll be worried that you’ve all been gone so long.”

“All right. I’ll pay attention and be a good kid. But I’m not gonna wear a skirt.”

“Hah hah hah.”

Treize stood and began to walk with Carla.

“And about what Lillia and I did on the seaplane… I know the other kids didn’t see anything, but—”

“I know. It’s a secret, right? I’ll keep it safe.”

“Thanks.”

Lillia was waiting for them to return.

“Finished talking? Let’s go.”

Treize nodded. Lillia squatted in front of Carlo and gently embraced her tiny form.

“Bye, Carlo. I’m so glad we met you.”

Carlo raised her arms and hugged Lillia’s head.

“See you, big sis.”

“Yeah. Take care, okay?”

“You too.”

“Yeah.”

Lillia pulled away from Carlo and stood. Then, with a light wave, she turned and walked over to the first lieutenant by one of the rubber boats.

Treize leaned in toward Carlo’s ear and whispered,

“Goodbye… Carla.”

Carlo whispered back.

“Goodbye… Prince Treize.”

Then, the two of them—

“See you, Carlo!”

“See you, big bro!”

Exchanged smiles and loudly said their goodbyes.


-----


Chapter 9.


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1 comment:

  1. oh my heart ! ‪(๑˃̵ᴗ˂̵)ﻭ‬
    ‪٩(♡ε♡ )۶‬ it's really a lovely exciting chapter

    ReplyDelete