Hey guys! Extra long chapter this time in apology for a late update! Enjoy!
The same flash of orange flashed across my peripheral vision, once again. I groaned in annoyance as the small mobile armor flitted its way through numerous explosions, some caused by it, as it continued shooting at me and the other GINNs.
The Archangel loomed in the distance, fending off petty enemies and participating in the battle with powerful blows of beam. Our battle had been raging for quite a while now, yet we still couldn't get any closer to the Archangel than we had an hour ago. This fleet was definitely a different story in terms of power level to any of the other EA fleets we had fought in the past.
The regular, now almost constant grunts of frustration came from my three male teammates on the link, as we all became more and more agitated at the absence of the white Gundam we were all waiting for.
"Where the hell is the Strike!" Dearka growled angrily, as he shot at the mobile armor, missing once again as the little orange evaded its way through danger.
"Get lost already, you stupid bug!" Yzak shouted as he attempted to shower the mobile armor with beam shots, to no avail.
I eyed it on my screen, trying to pinpoint a pattern in its movements. Why wasn't this stupid mobile armor going down? Especially against four Gundams!
I tackled five mobile suits at once, clearing them easily, as I destroyed another small command ship behind them. My face hot from under the helmet and my hair starting to fall into my eyes, my bad mood caused me to attack brashly against the unfortunate enemies who had decided to come near the Loyalty at that moment, as I shot and hacked my way through them with absolute no mercy.
Just as my battery level reached red, and I felt that I was about to scream from sheer frustration, I heard a high cry from one of the guys-I wasn't focused enough to identify who-causing me to raise my head and spot the Strike emerging from the Archangel.
Before I could move, the Dual zipped forward, moving through the slick columns of exploding mobile suits and beams, accompanied by a raw yell from its pilot. Ignoring the temptation to cut off the link with him in order to spare my ears, I followed after him, with Athrun and Dearka close behind me. We met the Strike half way through the battlefield; as we circled around it, the Dual and Buster mercilessly shot beams. The Aegis hung a little behind, shooting its gun aimlessly, more often hitting other nearby enemies but not the Strike. I glanced up at the screen to see Athrun's face, contorted in conflict and angst. My heart pained at his sorrowful expression, but it was too late now. We had already decided.
Even though my whole mentality was shouting against it, I opened my mouth and said, "Athrun."
At my call, he perked his head up from its downward position, giving me the full effect of his pain-filled gaze.
Swallowing with difficulty, but knowing it had to be done, I continued, "You told Kira last time. You told him that next time you met him, you would shoot him. Athrun, you have to do it. You have to fight him. He killed Nicol."
I finished without once raising my voice, staring into his eyes the whole time. Athrun's eyes widened a little as I spoke, but narrowed as I finished.
"I know…" he whispered, barely audible.
"You told what to who?" Dearka asked loudly, who I had forgotten was linked to the whole conversation, as he blasted another shot at the Strike, who dodged it easily. Dearka cursed as Athrun shouted, speeding forward, "Nothing!"
The Strike stumbled a little as the Aegis became fully involved in the scuffle.
"Athrun, don't get in the way!" Yzak yelled as he fought tooth and nail with a saber, cursing as Kira deflected each blow with a smartly placed shield or gun.
Despite what I had just told Athrun, I came face-to-face with my own conflicting emotions in shooting murderous beams at this white Gundam that contained Kira Yamato. I hung back, clearing out the area of smaller enemies, so that my teammates could fight easier. Dearka helped me from having to think longer as he shouted offhandedly, "Lilia! The Archangel!"
I swiftly turned my attention back to the huge, white battleship which was now considerably closer. I saw the mobile armor in the distance, busy against numerous GINNs. Kira was completely preoccupied with fending off the Aeigs, Buster, and Dual simultaneously. The Archangel was unprotected; now was my chance. I pressed on the accelerator, racing towards it. Evading from side to side the green beams that the battleship shot at me, I soon found myself some mere feet away from it. Landing on one of the side wings, I pulled out my main gun and began shooting off the mounted cannons and shooters, flitting this way and that as unskilled mobile suits attempted to shoot at me. When the whole left side of the Archangel was cleared of any weaponry, I began to move over to the right side when I realized that what I had to do was much simpler. I could just move over to the front of the ship, and blast away the little compartment jutting out from the top center that held the commander and communicators. Breathing heavily, I flew over to the front of the Archangel, landing right in front of the little commanding area that was surrounded by windows. I was so close to it that zooming up just a little into one of the window panels would give me a complete, clear view of the people inside. Why was this so much harder than destroying all the other command ships? Was it because I had had personal contact with some of the people in there? The dim, fading memory of the brunette commander and the black-haired woman came to mind, along with the annoyingly cheerful LaFlaga, as well as Sai and Miriallia. I felt myself falter when I remembered the last two. They had helped me escape, and yet here I was, ready to kill them in one blast of a beam. My heavy heart almost convinced me that I couldn't do such a horrible thing, when I remembered one more person. The image of the red-haired Flay came to mind, her racist curses streaming through my head like I had heard them just yesterday.
That's right, who was I kidding. These were all just mindless Naturals who were using Kira. Just because I had seen their faces didn't mean that they were to be spared. Narrowing my eyes, I raised my gun at the commanding nest, yelling, "You Naturals can't even do anything without Kira's help!"
An outside blast of beam shot my gun away just as I was about the pull the trigger. Cursing, I realized I was so focused on the Archangel I hadn't noticed the orange mobile armor speeding back to me from behind. Twisting the Loyalty around, I pulled out my specialty beam saber, twirling it around as I brandished it. Being forced away from the Archangel as I deflected each beam with a twist of the saber, I noted on my screen that my teammates were having about as much success as I was. With even more tenacity than this annoying mobile armor, the Strike dodged and floated away from every single attack that the ZAFT Gundams attempted to bring upon it, adding to the now peaking frustrations of the pilots. The inaction was beginning to piss me off, too. At least this mobile armor was fighting. Kira was simply dodging, and only using his gun to shoot a few times. He was a quick one, scurrying to and fro, like an uncatchable butterfly constantly in flight. I quickly began to understand the seething annoyance and anger that the crew of the Vesalius was garnering for the Strike.
It still really didn't make much sense at all, though, this whole situation. I didn't understand how Kira was such an advanced, extremely well-abled pilot. According to his story from when I was on the Archangel, he had been a simple normal civilian who was pulled into the war. How could such an individual, within a matter of months, be able to fight on par against four trained, military school top pilots? And simultaneously, on top of that? Albeit, he seldom went on the offensive.
Reining my attention back to the mobile armor, I began focusing on every aspect of the little machine; how it detached from its missiles, how it flitted sideways every time it dodged, how its speed lowered when it was about to shoot. Pouring in my utmost focus and determination, I soon pinpointed every weakness in the maneuvering, and as it flew towards me, I swiftly swiped my saber sideways, disarming it in one, clean swing. The Archangel blasted a beam at me, making me miss the chance to fully finish off the mobile armor. Frustration filled me as I saw the intact cockpit of the mobile armor fall safely onto the left leg of the Archangel, retreating within its confines into the hangar. Completely aggravated now, I turned on the Archangel, determined to destroy it. I found it easier to stay with the conviction when I thought that Flay was on the ship; found it easier to think of everyone on the ship as hypocritical, peace-breaking Naturals who killed Lady Zala. With a yell that distinctly resembled Yzak's, I raised my saber high, racing towards the front of the ship.
I hadn't even realized him coming up from behind me. Was I wrong to think that it would be impossible for him to get through Yzak, Athrun, and Dearka simultaneously? Well, I suppose that the fact that he had survived many battles against them previously was saying something, but, still. His movement was…inhumanly fast…even for a Coordinator.
I gasped in shock as the Strike literally popped up behind me, kicking the Loyalty right in the back of the cockpit. I cried out in surprise as the action sent a violent jostle into my cockpit, the force of the kick moving me out of my seat and slam into the keyboard in front of me, despite the seat belt. I coughed as I rubbed the spot on my stomach that the keyboard had come in contact with, glaring at the white Gundam that was now before me. I dodged swiftly as it shot at me. Why the sudden aggressiveness? And not just because he was now on the offensive, something about Kira's movements were not normal…Like they were enhanced, improved, heightened. I grunted as Kira shot off the right leg of the Loyalty.
I couldn't dodge it. He was too fast.
A hurtled yell from the left screen alerted me to Yzak's appearance as the Dual sped into the scene, swinging its saber at the Strike. The Strike deflected with its own respective saber, and shot at it, circling around to shoot at it from behind.
Still confused at the Strike's suddenly enhanced performance, I swung at its legs, missing as it flew upwards.
"Damn it!" I hissed as I followed it pathetically, waving the saber wildly.
The Strike blasted me away with another shot to the Loyalty's arm. My curses were cut short as I caught sight of Yzak hurtling headfirst towards the Strike. Horror filled me as I couldn't help remembering a distinctly familiar scene from my previous battle unfolding before me. Helpless with my badly battered Gundam that was now on the brink of its battery life, I could not move the Loyalty fast enough to stop the knife that the Strike plunged right into the Dual's cockpit.
"JOULE!" I screamed, speeding forward as fast as I could.
The Strike now visibly faltered, floating motionlessly as if in confusion.
Yells erupted from the left screen as Yzak screamed in pain.
Dread filled me as I saw in the screen Yzak holding his face. His helmet visor was cracked, and it was covered in blood.
"Athrun, Dearka, help!" I cried desperately as I flew over to the Dual, grasping it from behind as support while the Strike continued to stay motionless nearby.
Tugging the Dual along, I linked to the Vesalius, as I urgently called "Commander LeCreuset! The Dual is unable to fight! The Loyalty is almost out of power, too! I request retreat!"
He answered my plea promptly with a flare light from the Vesalius in the distance, signaling retreat.
The situation stayed chaotic as Athrun and Dearka's confused outcries mixed in with the strangled yells continuing to come from Yzak.
I saw Athrun staring with hard eyes at the now speeding-away Strike, apparently able to move again after its odd frozen-state, but not in its previous, equally odd, enhanced state.
As I flew back towards the Vesalius with the Dual in my arms, I called out, "Joule! Joule!"
Yzak ignored me and continued cradling his face, covering it from view. He had stopped yelling out, but I could see the blood still dripping from the helmet.
I sighed. But if he could manage to yell like that the whole while, the damage certainly wasn't life-threatening, at the least. Even so, the blood seeping through his cracked helmet was worrying me, as I hurriedly flew into the Vesalius, docking haphazardly with the Dual. Flipping my cockpit door open with a click, I flew towards the cockpit of the Dual, banging on the doors.
"Joule, open it!" I shouted, hitting the door persistently. The cut that Kira had made in the Dual's cockpit was not big enough to get in or see through.
The cockpit doors remained obsoletely shut.
"God damnit, Joule, just open your fucking cockpit! I know you can hear me!" I screamed as loud as I could.
After a long moment, the cockpit doors finally flicked open, unbalancing me for a moment. I grasped onto the edge of the now-open door, anchoring myself as I pulled my body into the small space.
He was sitting motionlessly, still holding his hands against his helmet covered face.
I gently touched his hands. When he didn't move, I proceeded to try to pull it away from his face. They remained unmoving. When I pulled harder, he pulled against me. Something about this situation was strangely familiar.
Sighing, I said resignedly, "Joule, please."
When his hands still didn't budge, I paused, releasing him, trying to decide what to do. Athrun and Dearka had not docked yet, and the mechanics were beginning to pile up down below, yelling at us to hurry up and get out so they could start repairing. I suddenly realized that Yzak was shaking.
Trying once again, I reached out one hand, but this time rested it on his quivering right shoulder.
"Joule," I said softly, "you can trust me."
His shaking seeming to stop, he began lowering his hands. Gaping, I took my hand off his shoulder. He actually listened to me?
I squinted at his helmet-covered face. All I could see were pieces of shattered glass, blood, and blood-stained silver hair.
"I'm going to take off your helmet," I said clearly, not bothering to ask for permission as I reached around his head for the back of his helmet, pressing the little button that loosened the hold around the chin. When it came done, I gingerly pulled it off, tossing it aside. I sucked in my breath at the sight of Yzak's bloodstained face. Aware of his gaze locked on me, I gently brushed back his bangs covering what I believed to be the wound. Sure enough, in a gaping, straight line, there was a deep cut that ran a good three inches in between his nose and right eye. His said eye being shut firmly, he stared at me from his left one bleakly.
Suppressing my shock, I took both of his hands in my own and said as calmly as I could, "Come on, Joule."
Pulling him out of his seat, we floated down to the ground. Many of the mechanics gasped at the sight of his face. Letting go of one hand, but keeping my hold on his left, I swiftly pulled him along, evading the crowd that had gathered, and entered the hallway. Yzak obediently followed me, not even complaining about his hand I still grasped, as I lugged him along to the infirmary.
The doctor looked up from his desk as I opened the door, his mouth falling open at the sight of Yzak. Without asking any questions he bustled around, motioning for Yzak to sit on the bed, while warily glancing at our linked hands. I led him to the bed, sitting down beside him. Finally, Yzak seemingly snapped back into reality, whipping his hand out of its clasp with mine.
"I'm fine. Go," he said tersely with clenched teeth.
I knew better than to argue with this kind of Yzak. I gave him a look of indifference and stood up, leaving the infirmary without a second glance back. I could sense what was seething and bubbling under that tone of Yzak's. It was anger. Pure, venomous, outright anger.
Yzak was seeking revenge already , and Kira wasn't going to get away with it easily.
"That personality of his is already bad enough; with that big-ass scar on his face, he's never going to be able to pick up girls!"
"Come on, Athrun, you know it's true. It's gonna be a big problem."
"Sorry, I don't really place 'picking girls up' a top priority in my life."
"Oh, that's right, how could I forget? Mr. Pretty Boy is already engaged to the most wanted female in PLANTS. Of course you wouldn't care."
"You do realize how lucky you are, right? There are so many guys out there who'd kill you just to tap that."
"Oh my god, can you stop?"
"I mean seriously, guys like you who don't give a shit always get the good ones while poor, hardworking guys like me-"
"Will you shut up?" I finally snapped, glaring daggers at the obnoxious blond.
Dearka raised an eyebrow at me, trying to hide a smirk as he said nonchalantly, "Sorry, Lilia."
Athrun glanced at me apologetically, still blushing a little from Dearka's comments.
I sighed, glancing at the clock. We had been sitting in the pilot briefing room for almost half an hour now, and Yzak still hadn't shown up. I was confused at Dearka's calmness. I, for one, was feeling extremely jittery, as we were supposed to get back out to attack the Archangel as soon as repairs on our Gundams were done. I was about to get up and get a drink from the vending machine when the intercom sounded.
"Lilia Axelman, please report to the commander's room. Lilia Axelman, report to the commander's room."
I narrowed my eyes and glanced at Athrun, confused, but he simply shook his head, not knowing what was going on, either.
"I'll be back," I said unnecessarily as I walked out of the room, leaving poor Athrun subject to Dearka's dirty talk.
People were milling about in the hallway, gearing up for our next attack. Numerous times I would hear passing whispers that would stop abruptly when the person talking saw me. No doubt they were gossiping about Yzak's facial wound.
I finally reached Commander LeCreuset's room, and entered upon his permission. As soon as I stepped in, he shut a desk drawer, but not before I caught a split-second sight of a container holding what looked like hundreds of white-blue pills. My ever apparent suspicion of the masked man mounting even more, I saluted to him, and said, "You called me, sir?"
"Yes…" he started slowly, shuffling some papers before he turned to face me, clasping his hands underneath his chin. The worst part about his mask was that you couldn't even tell where his eyes were looking behind the glazed white plastic.
"It has come to our attention," he continued, "our, meaning Chairman Zala, I and some of the other Vesalius crew members, that you are exceptionally skilled in the handling of the beam saber."
"Master…?" I asked, confused.
"As per his request, I have been sending him reports of your performance while onboard the Vesalius. He has been pleased."
A brief feeling of pleasure swept through me. Master was pleased with my work so far!
"Chairman Zala reviewed footage of you battling in action many times, and based on your fighting style, ordered the creation of a weapon specifically useful to you."
I mouth hung open a little. I waited for him to continue.
"It arrived to the Vesalius today, shortly after you guys retreated," LeCreuest said, "I think you will take a liking to it. It seems you have a skilled tendency in swinging a beam saber around with precision, and knocking out mobile suits like that. This weapon will make that easier."
"I…I don't even know how to thank-" I began, still a little shocked.
"Thanks are not needed," LeCreuset cut in, "Just fight as you normally do with this weapon, and that will be thanks enough to Chairman Zala. He told me to tell you that you do not need to contact him about this."
He motioned me forward, around his desk. I moved tentatively around the desk to his side, feeling a little uncomfortable at the proximity. He gestured at the computer screen. "Here it is," he said.
My brief feeling of discomfort forgotten, I stared in awe at the diagrams laid out on the screen. My new weapon. It was a huge scythe, the same size of the beam saber, but with the curved, elongated blade at the end. Before I could help myself, I whispered, "Wow…"
LeCreuset smirked, opening his mouth to say something when the second-in command rushed into LeCreuset's office without even knocking.
"The Archangel!" he said urgently, "Its movements are irregular; it appears to be moving towards the outer layer of the Earth's stratosphere!"
LeCreuest abruptly stood up, then said to me, "I suppose now is a good time to use your new weapon, is it not, Lilia?"
I looked at him, then nodded slowly. The three of us walked out of the office, only to be confronted by a loud scene involving a certain silver-haired individual.
"Joule!" I exclaimed.
Yzak was pulling hard against the grip of the doctor, barking out against two other soldiers gathered around him.
"I am going to go out and fight if it's the last thing I do!" he yelled, tugging violently at the doctor's grip.
"But Yzak," a young Greencoat objected, "your eye! You can't fight like that!"
Yzak began clawing at the white bandages covering the right side of his face.
I held my breath as the bandages fell to the floor. An ugly, red scar ran down the right side of his face, disrupting his otherwise generally handsome features.
Yzak stopped fighting against the doctor, and said in his most dangerous, soft voice, "I am going to destroy the Strike. This is why this scar has to be seen."
He glanced around, and finally spotted me a few feet away for the first time. His eyes were glinting in hard anger. All I could do was stare back, a little frightened. When the men began to object again, LeCreuset stepped in, putting a hand on the doctor's shoulder.
"Let him go," he said in a tone of finality.
With a sigh, the doctor let go of Yzak's arms. Yzak gave a cutting "thank you" to LeCreuset, then, glancing at me one more time, rushed off.
"What are you waiting, for, Lilia? You need to hurry too; the Archangel is trying to descend to Earth," LeCreuset said to me in the eerily calm voice of his.
I wanted to cringe at the shrewd smile he gave towards Yzak's distant figure down the hall.
"Yes, sir," I said quietly, saluting as I hurried off as well.
Before long, I found myself sitting in the cockpit of the Loyalty for the second time that day, ready to launch. I mentally repeated to myself what the mechanic told me about how to equip the new scythe that Master had given me. A feeling of determination coursed through me as I gripped the lever, launching out the second I received the green signal.
Outside, the Dual speeded ahead, already brandishing out a gun and beam saber.
"Is Yzak going to be okay?" Dearka asked worriedly through the link, warily eyeing his friend from afar.
"Yzak should know more than anyone else what he's doing. We have to trust him on this," Athrun said grimly.
"There it is!" I hissed as the Archangel came into view, clearly headed towards the enormous blue-green planet that loomed in the distance.
"Go!" Athrun said, "And remember, don't go farther than Indigo 47; you'll get pulled into the Earth's gravity!"
"Roger!" Dearka and I responded in unison, speeding off.
"The Strike! Where's the damn Strike!" Yzak yelled, his voice cracking.
I glanced at his face in the screen warily. Yzak was obviously not very mentally stable right now; that was never a good thing in battle. Why had LeCreuset allowed him to fight?
As if in answer, a white Gundam zipped out of the Archangel, headed straight for us.
Yzak immediately catapulted forward in response, blinded by frenzied anger as he shot and shot at the Strike. Athrun and Dearka soon joined in.
I took a deep breath, then began typing on my keyboard, readying my new scythe. A loud click that resonated throughout the cockpit alerted me that it was ready, and I pulled it out of the Loyalty's led, waiting as the weapon unfolded itself out into its full, intimidating length. I felt…powerful, wielding it. A cruel smile playing on my lips, I launched forward into the sea of mobile suits, cutting down one after another after another. This scythe was a hundred times better than my beam saber; the curved blade made it easy to swing it across, allowing me to destroy five or more mobile suits at once. Dearka habitually whistled as I twirled it around, causing destruction with every movement.
A group of ten mobile suits lunged towards me, their guns raised. I rotated the Loyalty, knocking one mobile suit into another with the butt of the scythe. I surveyed the situation on my screen, when an idea popped into my head. The suits were situated in way that they surrounded me in a small, semi-circle. Itching to try my idea out, I made sure the scythe was grasped firmly in the Loyalty's hands. Then, without warning, I brandished the blade out sideways, and spun the Loyalty around in a blindingly fast, full 360 degree circle. The force of the blade was such that it easily cut through all ten mobile suits in a row, creating a succession of explosions around me. I flew upwards, escaping the exploding ring, and gravitated towards the ongoing battle with the Strike. The Aegis moved to the left, providing a pocket just big enough for me. Not wanting to waste the chance, I dove in, scythe raised high. The Strike evaded at the last moment, jetting out sideways. Grunting, I hitched the back end of my scythe up, catching Kira in surprise as I hit his legs, knocking him over. Semi-satisfied that I had finally landed a blow on him, I channeled more energy into the blade of the beam-scythe, going after Kira. The Strike fumbled with its saber as it attempted to deflect my gradually growing aggressive attacks, not letting it a second of respite as I hacked and hacked, flitting around constantly as I tried different angles.
"Axelman, get out of the way, he's MINE!" Yzak shouted, coming in from behind as he shot a beam.
Using Yzak's distraction to my advantage, I swung the scythe, cutting off the Strike's left arm, disarming it of its main beam gun.
"Why do you never fight back!" Yzak cried in frustration as he shot another beam, only to have it dodged by Kira.
I soon realized that we were getting dangerously close to the edge of where the Earth's gravity began taking effect.
"Get back!" I cried.
The Buster immediately flitted back, but as I had guessed, Yzak remained stubborn as he continued attacking the Strike. To my surprise, Athrun didn't let up either, driving at the Strike in determination.
As the battle between the Gundams raged, I saw through the corner of my eye a small, white passenger ship launch out of the Archangel, slowly entering the gravitational pull. "What the…" I mouthed.
Yzak didn't miss it either. The Strike froze, allowing me to land a swing on it as I cut off its head. My success surprised me as I realized Kira was distracted. Athrun faltered as well, confused by the Strike's motions. The Strike immediately moved forward as the Dual raised its gun; not in the direction of the Strike, but at the passenger ship.
"Pathetic soldiers who try to escape during battle don't deserve to live!" he screamed, pulling the trigger.
I didn't try to stop the Strike as it raced forward, but it was too late, the ship exploded, killing the soldiers or whoever were inside of it. The Strike suddenly turned limp and unmoving. "Now!" yelled Athrun as he rushed forward.
"Shit!" Dearka cried from the distance. "The Archangel already entered the sphere!"
I saw him pull the Dual back away, despite Yzak's protests.
My cockpit began rattling from pressure as I realized I was dangerously on the border. Sweat ran down my face like bullets, as I moved my heavy body. Maybe it was too late for the Archangel, but we could still get the Strike. I followed after Athrun, realizing that Kira was attempting to get on the Archangel, so he could descend along with it. Fighting against the gravity, the Aegis raised its gun blearily, shooting at the Strike. A beam landed on the Strike's other arm, unbalancing it. I realized my scythe was not well out for this situation. Quickly storing it back, I whipped out my beam gun and began shooting as well. I almost had to stop myself from taking off my helmet to wipe my face of sweat. The growing, intense heat was getting too much for me and I felt like I was on the danger of passing out.
"Athrun…!" I panted heavily.
Whether or not he could hear me, I didn't know, but he didn't respond, instead crying out in frustration, "KIRA!"
It was too late. We were too far behind the Strike. We watched in screaming frustration as the Strike landed on the Archangel, touching down on one knee.
"God damnit!" Yzak yelled.
A glance to the left showed me in horror that the Aegis was turning gray. It was out of power.
"Athrun!" I screamed, revving up my engine as I tried to fight against the gravitational pull. A horrible beeping noise alerted me that the Loyalty was out of power, too.
"Oh, god…no…" I whispered, slamming down the foot pedal uselessly.
"Axelman! Athrun! Hurry!" Yzak shouted from next to the Buster.
"I…can't…" Athrun breathed heavily, the heat and pressure getting to him.
I soon realized that without the Phase Shift Armor, the heat was slowly burning off the metal of our Gundams. We didn't have the proper protection to be here. We were going to die.
Athrun looked at me with glazed eyes from the screen, sweating and panting.
"Lilia…" he whispered desperately.
I could hear and see only Athrun, tuning out the outside, chaotic yells coming from Dearka, Yzak and the Vesalius. I could feel my eyelids drooping shut, as the heat muddled up my thinking and senses. Perhaps it would not be so bad to die here. The last thing I would see would be Athrun's green eyes on the screen, as he said my name like it was the only thing that mattered. Not bad at all. I had been able to use Master's scythe, and I had been able to meet and become relatively close with Yzak and Dearka. Beyond my past that I couldn't remember and my few years spent with the Zala family, my life wasn't all too bad. Maybe…I could…let go…?
A sharp pain in my chest brought me harshly back into reality. I clutched the front of my pilot suit, coughing as I attempted to breathe with difficulty. I shook my head, trying to focus as I saw Athrun still staring at me with a dazed look on his face. Had I been about to give up without even trying to save him? Disgusted at myself, I tried to breathe in and out, but the air was becoming constricted. I clutched at my chest, despairing once again, when I realized the answer, clear as day.
The N-jamm cancellers.
I pulled out my keyboard, typing fanatically, trying to remember where the data I stored for nuclear power was. I grappled with myself, but I knew I must do it. I was disobeying Master. He had told me strictly to never use it, but I had to. Right?
I took a feverish breath as the screen asked me if I wanted to activate the cancellers. As soon as I pressed yes, numerous beeps sounded in my cockpit, alerting me to the locations of various nuclear power sources. I latched onto the closest one, and forcibly channeled a monstrous load of energy back into the Loyalty's system. Within a matter of seconds, the phase shift armor was restored, and I found myself gliding against the gravitational pull with ease. I swiftly grabbed the Aegis in my arms and with a burst of powerful energy, blasted out of the Earth's outer ring, not stopping until I reached where the Buster and Dual were, many meters away.
"L-Lilia…" Dearka said incredulously, staring at me in awe.
Yzak gazed at me intensely through the screen.
Finally taking my first actual breath, I said tersely, "Let's go back."
Athrun came to halfway back to the Vesalius, and insisted on piloting himself. I led the three Gundams back, as I furiously typed on the keyboard, turning the cancellers off and deleting any source of information that could show that I had used them.
Once I had docked, I floated to the ground of the hangar, where my teammates were waiting.
Athrun stared at me with his usual, beautiful green eyes.
"You saved me," he said simply, "Thank you."
"Of course," I said softly.
"How did you do that?" Yzak asked suddenly.
My stomach lurched. "Do what," I asked uncomfortably.
"The Loyalty was out of power," he continued, not once taking his azure gaze off of my face, "how were you able to revive it?"
"I- I have a secret store of energy that I keep in the Loyalty" I lied, the words tumbling out of my mouth. "I never use it, so I didn't think of it until that moment."
Yzak narrowed his eyes in suspicion but didn't press the matter. I heaved an inward sigh of relief. Yzak was too perceptive. It scared me.
I felt detached, as if I was staring at myself from a far, and I was vaguely aware of Dearka thumping me on the back as he complimented my act. I didn't come to until I was sitting in the pilot briefing room, as LeCreuset said the words, "We will descend to Earth in the next hour, to pursue the Archangel. Get ready and in your positions."
So green, and so…big.
The "ocean", that's what Athrun called it, stretched forward into infinity, and the sky was like a limitless, clear pool of blue. It was still hard for my mind to grasp that this sky was real, and that I was not looking at the inner side of the walls of a PLANTS colony. I had to admit to the beauty of Earth. After all, the graphics of PLANTS were modeled after Earth.
The Vesalius floated effortlessly atop the water. It surprised me previously to find out that the ship was prepared for Earth landings, and had a function for aquatic traveling. I took a deep breath of the air, trying to clear my mind. The trip down to Earth had not been a pleasant one; the constant shaking and lurching had caused me to throw up multiple times. I had locked myself up in the bathroom, but before long, I had to open for a persistent Athrun, who rubbed my back as I continued to be sick over the sink. I sighed and rested my head on the rail, gazing out into the ocean. I loved the scenery, and something deep in my mind stirred, telling me this scene was familiar, but that was absurd. I had never been to Earth. Never heard of it, even, until a few years ago.
LeCreuset had offered us a few days of rest, as the Archangel was still yet to be located, and our bodies needed time to adapt to the changes of Earth. I peered up at the sky again. Master was miles and miles away now. I exhaled, my mood dampening a bit. I turned my head at the sound of a door creaking open to the left, and I widened my eyes at the sight of Yzak walking towards me.
He wordlessly came up beside me, leaning forward on the railing in a similar way I was, peering out into the ocean.
After a few minutes of silence, he spoke up.
"How are you feeling?"
"Good," I answered truthfully.
He nodded, turning his head back towards the sea. I couldn't help gazing at his face, the scar an angry, red welt that splayed across his face. Yzak soon sensed my curious eyes and locked his gaze on mine.
"Does it look that bad?"
"Uh…no, not really."
He cocked his head sideways at me. "Liar."
"Wha-" I muttered.
He gave a small laugh and turned around.
"I don't really care," he said in a more serious tone, "I need this scar. Until I destroy that damn Strike, I'm not going to get rid of it. It's like my, what is it called…uh-"
"Yeah, that," Yzak said, peering at me.
Another long minute of silence passed. Yzak broke it again.
"I'm sorry for how I acted during the battle."
I looked at him in shock. Someone was sure acting differently today.
"I don't know, being scarred by the Strike just kind of lit off a fuse in my head. I could tell you were fed up with me. Sorry."
I laughed lightly, "Used to it by now. Don't worry about it."
Yzak rolled his eyes.
"Oh, yeah," he said after a moment.
"Thanks for, you know, taking…care of me. After the Strike got me."
My lips curved upward into a smile.
"No problem" I said.
I sensed Yzak's gaze on me and looked up, saying, "What?"
"Oh, nothing, it's just I've never seen you smile before…"
"Oh whatever," I sniffed, quickly wiping the smile off my face.
"What the hell," Yzak chided.
"That's my line," I argued playfully, "I saved you that one time and then you go and get into the same situation again! My hand got speared for nothing."
Yzak's eye twitched and he turned towards me, "Yeah, well if I could have just seen through your screen that your hand was almost sliced through , I would have helped you too! But no, you try to hide it like a freak!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said sarcastically, "I wasn't aware that your humanitarian aid senses were tingling at that moment."
Yzak clicked his tongue.
I let the comment slide, returning my attention back to the sea and the port that was looming gradually closer. But his two words made me realize something.
"Joule," I said.
"What?" Yzak responded, staring ahead at the port.
"You've stopped calling me 'bitch'," I said, surprised by my own discovery.
Yzak turned his head towards me, mouth hanging open. He clamped it shut after a few moments, swiveling his head back away from me.
"It's a degrading term to call women," he said in an almost amusing formal tone.
"Wow. You've changed," I observed simply.
Yzak huffed. "People tend to change, if you haven't noticed."
I sighed. "Whatever. At least you've changed in a good way."
"You think so?" Yzak asked, curiously.
I looked at him, but quickly averted my gaze.
"Sure," I replied.
We stayed silent like that until the Vesalius docked at the port.
"LeCreuset said we can go out into town, right?" I confirmed with Yzak.
"Yeah," he said. "I think this place was called…Los Angeles?" He hesitated with the foreign, unfamiliar word.
"Okay," I said, turning to leave, "I guess I'll go get changed, then."
I stopped as Yzak's hand took my wrist.
Turning to look at him, he brought my left hand forward. His touch was warm.
He inspected the indented, red scar in the middle of my palm where I had been pierced previously.
"Not being sexist here," Yzak said, staring at the scar, "but I still think it'd be bad for girls to have a scar on their face. I'm glad you didn't save me the second time, because I sure as hell wouldn't want to see this," he pointed at his scar, "on here," he poked my right cheek.
I laughed openly, smiling at him with full teeth.
"Okay Joule…See you later."
I flitted off, glancing backward before I left to see him still staring at me.
Back in the room, I took out my only non-uniform outfit, changing into it. Months and months on a battleship had really worn me out, and I was eager to explore the big city. Thankful that my hair color was a normal one for Naturals, so that I could mix in with them without arousing suspicion of my Coordinator origins, I slipped on black leggings, throwing on a loose, short-sleeved, white shirt on top and pulling on brown, lace-up boots. I checked out with LeCreuset and stepped off the Vesalius on to solid ground. It felt weird walking on actual ground, weighed down by gravity. I squinted at the bright sun, putting on sunglasses that Athrun once gave me long ago. The weather was perfect, and I strolled away from the port, heading towards the busy streets. The Vesalius crew had labored to erase any outward evidence of the ship belonging to ZAFT, and as I glanced back, it mixed in quite well with the other battleships that were anchored at the port.
The weather was perfect, and as the warm wind ruffled my hair, I felt content for the first time in years. Hundreds of people milled around me, chattering and laughing. Naturals.
How weird it was to be walking among them, pretending to be like them. But the funny thing was, when I wasn't in battle, I didn't feel a thing. I didn't feel hatred or disgust towards them. They were just normal civilians, enjoying the sun outside.
I strolled along, soon coming to a stop at a red light. I waited, watching an excessive number of sports cars drive by. So these were what cars on Earth looked like. I suddenly felt a tap to my shoulder. I looked up to see a grinning Dearka looking down at me.
"Oh god…" I said.
Dearka narrowed his eyes at me. "Good to see you, too. Hey, wanna join me?" He gestured to a café behind him.
I sighed. I didn't really know where I was going, anyway. "Sure," I replied.
We walked over, sitting at one of the tables outside. The table was shaded by a big umbrella sprouting from a hole in the middle of the table. A young waitress spotted us and started walking over. I resisted the terrible urge to roll my eyes as Dearka saw her and began smoothing his hair back. He had on his perfect smile plastered across his face as she came up.
"Can I get you something?" the waitress asked, glancing more at Dearka than me.
Oh, so the interest was mutual. How nice.
"Lemonade," I grunted unattractively, tossing the menu at Dearka's face.
Dearka perused the menu, his eyes lighting up as he found what he wanted.
"I want beer!"
The waitress paused. "Do you have an ID?"
"A what?" Dearka asked.
"An ID. You need proof to show that you're over 21 to purchase alcohol."
"Oh, come on," Dearka pouted, "I'm visiting from a…foreign place and we don't have that law. Please?"
He flashed a charming smile at the waitress, who visibly faltered.
"Um, well…I can't really…I don't know…"
Dearka dropped the smile and took the waitress' right hand in both of his own.
"It would mean so much to me," he breathed, staring in to the poor girl's eyes, "if I could have bottle of beer to cool off after traveling all day. It's a kind of tradition at where I'm from, which is um…E-Egypt."
The waitress gulped, her face turning red.
"Please?" Dearka asked again, making wide puppy dog eyes at the waitress.
"O-One lemonade and one bottle of beer," she said, flustered.
Dearka beamed. "Thank you!" he exclaimed, kissing her hand.
I wanted to gag. The waitress floated away, obviously still on clouds.
I leaned my head on my right hand, disinterested. "You want beer that much?" I asked.
"Well, yeah," Dearka said, scratching the back of his head. "I used to drink it every time we stopped at a city in PLANTS. Kinda wondering if the beer on Earth is different."
I shrugged, fanning myself with a napkin that was sitting on the table. Before long, the waitress showed up with our drinks, setting them down and winking flirtatiously at Dearka before leaving.
I made a disgusted noise in my throat as I gulped down the lemonade, suddenly realizing that my throat was parched. Dearka downed almost half the bottle in one swig, burping loudly after he swallowed. I rolled my eyes at him, sipping out of my cup as I watched people walk by. For a few minutes we just sat and drank, not conversing.
I looked up to see Dearka grinning mischievously. Uh-oh.
"Let's play spin-the-bottle."
"Spin-the-bottle," he repeated, holding up his now empty beer bottle.
"No," I said flatly, draining the rest of my cup of lemonade.
"Spin-the-bottle with two people? Are you stupid?"
Dearka ignored the insult and said, "How about this, we'll just have one round. We'll spin it until it points at someone, and the other person can ask them any question they like."
"So one person won't have to answer a question," I stated in a monotone.
"Well, we could both ask each other questions, but then we won't have to spin a bottle."
"Whatever," I sighed, "Just do it."
"Okay!" Dearka said gleefully. "Here we go!" He placed the bottle on the table and spun it.
It rotated gradually slower until it came to a pointing stop at Dearka.
"Are you serious?" whined Dearka.
"I don't really have anything to ask you," I said honestly.
"Oh c'mon, don't you want to know everything about me?"
"You don't have to be that damn honest…I was only joking…"
I sat staring at his face, thinking of what to ask him. I saw the waitress lingering in the distance, peering hopefully at Dearka and glaring at me. I sighed. Then I knew what I wanted to ask.
"Dearka," I said, "what type of girl do you like? Like, sincerely?"
Dearka looked surprised.
"Answer honestly," I warned.
He laughed, "Yeah, yeah."
"I actually have this answer ready in my mind already," he confessed.
I looked at him questioningly, prompting him to continue.
"My type of girl is a short haired brunette."
I spit back the ice cube I was chewing on back into the cup.
"That's my answer," Dearka said clearly. There was no gleam of mischief in his eyes.
I remained silent, and he continued, "I actually really like short, shoulder-length hair. And I'm into brunettes. Yeah."
I suddenly became aware of my jet-black hair cascading down my back almost to my waist.
Dearka seemed to notice at the same time I did and crinkled his nose at me in fake disgust, "Sorry, but you're not my type."
I rolled my eyes. "I'm absolutely devastated," I responded sarcastically.
Short hair and brunette? That reminded me of…Miriallia…
I quickly turned that part of my brain off, not wanting to think about the Archangel and destroy my short bout of happiness I was experiencing.
"Um, so…" I began, "Why?"
Dearka raised an eyebrow at me.
"Why?" I pressed, "Why is it that specific description?"
Dearka sighed and leaned forward.
"Don't laugh," he started, glaring at me.
I nodded, waiting for him to continue.
"That's basically a description of my mom."
My mouth hung open and I stared at Dearka's blond hair.
"You mom's a brunette?"
"Was a brunette. She died."
Dearka shrugged, "It's okay. I'm over it now. But yeah, I always admired my mom's hair as a kid. She had the most beautiful hair…it was shoulder length. Hey, is it creepy that I like that in girl? Like, you know, does it seem like a mother complex of sorts?"
I shook my head.
"No," I said truthfully, "I think that's actually kind of…sweet."
He looked into my eyes, trying to make sure I wasn't kidding around.
"So your dad was a blond, then?" I asked.
"Yep," Dearka replied with a grin.
I smiled in response. Who would have known Dearka had a side to him like this?
"So what about you?"
"Your parents, what are they like?"
I blinked at him.
"Um…I don't know."
Dearka stared at me.
"What do you mean…" he tentatively asked.
"Uh…well, I don't remember anything about myself before the age of around 5…"
"Seriously?" Dearka asked incredulously.
"Yeah…" I confirmed, staring down uncomfortably, "I don't even know what age I actually am right now. I mean, I'm most likely 16 or 17, but who knows."
Dearka looked at me in wonder.
"Wow," he said, "didn't know that about you. But Athrun found you, right? At a church or something."
"Yeah," I said, smiling at the memory, "When I was around 7."
Dearka nodded. "Wonder why you don't remember anything before you were 5…" he mused, "Especially 'cause Coordinators are supposed to have pretty good memory from a young age."
I shrugged my shoulders, "Who knows."
Just then, the waitress appeared, a check in hand.
"Can I do anything else for you?" she asked sweetly, discreetly handing Dearka the check with what looked like her phone number written on it.
"Sorry," Dearka said, slapping some money on the table, "I'm not interested in blondes."
"Bye!" he called cheerfully to the shocked waitress as we walked away.
"That was rude," I commented when we were a few blocks away.
"Eh, whatever," Dearka replied with a grin.
We walked for a few more blocks when I abruptly stopped.
"What?" Dearka asked in an annoyed voice. He followed the gaze of my eyes.
Athrun was sitting on a bench by a fountain, reading a book. I swiftly crossed the pavement and plunked down on the bench beside him. Athrun looked up in surprise, but when he saw me his face morphed into a warm smile.
"Hey," I replied, smiling back.
Dearka came up and sat on the bench on Athrun's other side.
"Oh hey, guess who decided to show up as well," Dearka said in his usual obnoxious tone.
I looked up to see Yzak walking towards us, looking very much different in his combination of pants and a polo shirt, rather than his usual ZAFT uniform ensemble. He rolled his eyes at Dearka's remark and sat down in the last space available on the bench, beside me.
I wondered what people would think of the odd sight of four, very different people all aligned and sitting on the same bench. How they would never guess that we were all Redcoats, and pilots of the very machines they were taught to fear. I looked at the reflection of the four of us in the window of a piano store that was directly across the street. I smiled.
I was not alone.
Hey guys! I'm sorry for not updating for a few months. Life really tends to get in the way, haha. This past week, though, I have mapped out this WHOLE story. Previously, I was sorta writing on the flow and didn't know what direction I wanted to go, but now I know every single event that's going to happen, and I now have to just make sure all my ideas flow together in a coherent chronological order. Much excitement is to happen with Lilia! Well, hopefully, you guys think so hahahaha.
I mentioned previously that I wanted Lilia to have little episodes where she could get to know her teammates better. Well, she had the bra thing with Yzak, so this time was Dearka's! Hope it was enjoyable. Also, I don't know if you could tell or not, but when Kira's performance was "enhanced" and "heightened", he was in SEED mode. Yay :D
Thank you so much to my reviewers: IgNighted, ZhiZhu, BadCommunication, Shenhu, and Arisa-chan! You guys are amazing!
Quick question to BadCommunication: is that name by chance derived from the B'z song with the same name? If you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, lol sorry! But I was just wondering.
Again, please please prettyyy please review! I love them so effing much you don't even know.
Well, hope this chapter wasn't a total fail!
See you next chapter!