With a ragged, red-stained Charles on her back, Fana took one step, then another step onto the white beach.
The sky above was a light, transparent red.
The sun, was a ball of magma hovering just over the horizon, and turned the clouds floating over the island crimson.
There were some palm trees near the end of the beach. Fana carried Charles to them, and then laid him down on white sand.
Gasping, she turned him face-up, then collapsed next to him. The past three days she'd been either in the air or on the water, so she was thankful for the firm ground.
A salt-scented wind swept by. Her ragged breath slowly calmed down, and only the sound of the waves reached her ears.
Fana sat up, looked sadly at the bloodied form of Charles, and combed some dried blood from his hair. The nylon fabric she'd hastily wrapped around him was already stained with blood.
Getting up, she rummaged through the enclosure of the Santa Cruz, and brought out what she found, laying it on the ground. Emergency tools were in a wooden box, wired tightly to make sure they'd survive the rough conditions of flight. Finding emergency first aid kits in the box, she felt relief.
However, Fana had never patched anyone up before.
She sat down next to Charles and peeled off the parachute nylon that was haphazardly wrapped around his head. The underside of the nylon was soaked in blood. After a moment's shock, she pressed a gauze with disinfectant to the wound, and wrapped it anew. After a few times doing this, she didn't want to say it was good, but she thought her work was at least satisfactory.
Charles continued sleeping. She touched his face; it was neither hot nor cold. One night's rest would make him perfectly fine tomorrow she thought, trying to cheer herself up, and then stepped into the thicket of palm trees with a tin bucket in one hand.
She needed water to wash away Charles' blood.
Stepping through the thick green ground, she pa.s.sed by big, crooked ferns and suspiciously-colored vegetation, and found a swamp filled with black water. Not trusting its looks, she braved onward.
It was getting dark. She started hearing sounds she'd never heard before. She looked around, feeling like she was being watched, when she saw a big monkey sitting on a bent part of a tree, staring at her with eyes glistening gold from the moonlight.
Stifling a scream, she turned her back to the monkey and kept walking. She wanted to turn back, but she felt like she'd find water just a bit deeper in. Pressed onward by her intuition, the thicket came to an end, and a new beach entered her vision.
She looked beyond the beach; far, far away, the sun was snuggling down behind the green mountain range. The dimming light shone through the connected peaks and valleys, and rays of light poked up toward the clouds.
And between the two humps was one stream of water, pa.s.sing by the beach in front of Fana, and going toward the ocean. The sky reflected off of the clear water.
"Ahh, G.o.d, thank you."
Falling to her knees, she clasped her hands over her breast and spoke the words of grat.i.tude.
Struggling, constantly out of breath, Fana managed to return through the thicket of palm trees carrying the bucket full of water.
The sun had fallen by the time she reached Charles, the beach glimmering in the moonlight. Lukewarm air surrounded them. Night was cold on the ocean surface, but there wasn't as much a worry of cold on this island.
She lit a tallow candle with a match and propped it up with sand. Then, she dipped a rag into the water, and began wiping blood from Charles' face. Then, blushing, she took off his flight suit, cleaned the wounds he'd gotten from the gla.s.s shards with brandy, and applied a gauze to them.
Charles' expression peaceful. His breathing was calm. Thinking he'd be fine if he were left in peace, after patching up his body, Fana covered him with a blanket.
Sounds from the island died away.
She could hear neither birds nor waves. Just the ocean, sky, stars, and moon, and Charles.
Fana sat down next to Charles and stared at the waves biting at the beach.
A gust of summer night wind swept by. The afternoon heat was still in the sand, and the static air still held warmth.
She was free to do as she wished at this moment. Time she had to herself, without anyone watching, time that never existed in Rio de Este.
Fana returned to the back seat of the Santa Cruz, changed into her swimsuit, and jumped into the night ocean.
The water was warm and comfortable on her skin.
Treading water, she calmly gazed at the night stars, floating among the waves.
The sharp moonlight descended onto her white body.
She'd braced herself for death so many times that day. But she survived. And now she was swimming in the night ocean.
Spreading out her arms and legs, she looked at the starry night, and decided.
"I'm going to change."
Whispering that to herself, something heavy, deep down in her soul, melted away.
Restless, she returned to the beach and, still in her swimsuit, sat down next to Charles.
With a look of determination, she let down her tied hair. Then, lifting up the scissors she used to cut up bandages, she brought the blades to her silver, thread-like hair.
The cut strands danced and vanished into the night breeze, toward the ocean.
The golden moonlight slid across her hair, sliding down to her chin.
Finished, she brushed her hair with one hand. Long enough to reach her waist just moments ago, her hair was now neck-length through her fingers.
With no mirror, she couldn't see how she looked, but it was enough to serve as a ritual for her rebirth.
"How does it look?" She smiled mischievously at Charles. No response. Fana reached out and pinched his cheek. Charles, sleeping with an innocent look, was pinched in the cheek.
Pulling her hand away, she whispered, "I'm living, thanks to you."
It was an honest thought.
And as she said that, she was filled with misery.
Her heart wrenched at her, hurting. And from that pain she was filled with an emotion she'd never felt before.
It was a feeling she'd felt for the first time in her life, a bitter, but sweet feeling that was both painful and comfortable.
Fana didn't know what to do. So covering herself in a blanket, she laid down next to Charles.
Only the sound of Charles' sleeping breath was audible in the tropical night.
Fana waited for sleep, listening to that breath. Emotions burst forth from her heart, crashing against each other, denying sleep.
"Charles." Unable to hold herself any longer, she called his name. Rolling over, she gazed at his face, under the moonlight. Her heart began to hurt more.
"Charles," She called out again. No response. She wanted to reach out and embrace him, push her face into his back, and sleep.
And when she realized what she was thinking, she blushed and turned away from Charles, curling up and ducking her head beneath her blanket.
She could hear her heart pounding. With embarra.s.sment firmly in her mind, she screwed her eyes shut, and awaited sleep.
The morning that came from the horizon pierced the ocean mist and illuminated the beach Charles and Fana were on.
Charles was the first to wake up.
Wincing at the strong light directly leaping into his face, he shook his head lightly, and tried to sit up, when his whole body felt wracked with pain.
"Uggh." He groaned, touched the wound on his head, and noticed the bandage awkwardly wrapped around it.
At his side was Fana, curled up in her blanket with her back to him, sleeping calmly.
Charles absent-mindedly looked at Fana, then the beach, his gaze sweeping across the palm tree thicket, as he traced through his memory.
They'd flown right into the middle of an enemy fleet, were chased by kuurai, then Shinden…and he suffered head trauma in the middle of the latter.
His memory after that was hazy. He remembered desperately listening to Fana, and relying on his physical memory. Heavy rain poured into the seats, and it was tough holding the control stick. He'd given up on living numerous times.
He didn't remember how they shook the Shinden. He vaguely remembered pa.s.sing the Great Fall and finding Sierra Cadis. But beyond that, nothing, no matter how hard he tried.
Somehow managing to stand on the sand, he did a light stretch. He finally realized he had innumerable wounds all over his bare upper body. Probably the shattered gla.s.s. But they were all disinfected. Fana had no doubt patched him up. Feeling grateful yet remorseful for troubling her so, he looked down at Fana, curled up in her blanket.
He felt incredibly hungry. He lacked blood.
Drinking from his water flask, he took dried bread from the emergency tools laid out on the sand, and bit into it. Then, putting on his flight suit, he walked across the beach.
The waves swept over his ankles, and he gazed at the horizon, absent-mindedly.
"I'm still alive." Confirming this by speaking aloud, he felt the thick, misty air and the lukewarm wind on his face. The sun was rising over the horizon, and blue was beginning to dominate the red.
Then, a voice from behind.
"Good morning, Charles."
When he turned around, he saw Fana standing at the edge of the waves in her flight suit, smiling at him.
Charles' eyes widened; Fana's hair was cut so that it only reached her chin.
"My Lady, your hair?"
"I cut it, because it was getting in the way. How does it look?"
Charles gulped. It suited her far more than when her hair was tied up. But he didn't know how to put that opinion into words, so he just silently nodded.
"How are you? Are you okay walking?"
"Y-Yes, umm, did my Lady do the bandaging?"
"I'm sorry they're clumsily done. I'd never done it before."
"No, it's actually done quite well. I'm amazed."
Fana looked at him with doubt, then smiled, mischievously.
"Charles, do you remember yesterday?"
"What? Uh, umm, did I do something rude?"
"Hmm, rude…well if what you said was a lie, then that would definitely be rude."
"Umm, I, what...?"
"You really don't remember? 'Social cla.s.ses don't exist in the sky.' You said that to me as we were being chased. If that was a lie, then I shall have to hate you."
Charles desperately tried to recall what happened the day before.
As Fana said, he vaguely remembered conversing as the Shinden chased them. Right, because Fana's voice was like a magic spell, holding him in place and giving him enough strength to handle the control stick. And then-
Charles blushed. Then, after struggling with words, he made excuses.
"I'm sorry, Lady. I was confused, then. Umm, so, I ended up speaking to you like a friend-"
"I don't mind."
"No, but I do. It was my mistake. Calling the Lady by her name although I'm not in any position to do that. I'm deeply, deeply sorry."
Fana looked displeased at his apologies.
"So that was a lie?"
"Not really a lie, so much as wishful thinking by one mercenary. There's no need for the Lady to take it seriously."
"I'll decide whether to take it seriously or not. I'm quite enamored by this manner of thought," Fana said, firmly. Unlike yesterday, this was a Fana that could and would speak her mind. That, along with her cut hair, made her seem like a completely different person.
"I am honored by the praise. But let's not talk about it anymore. There are lots of things to do today."
Forcing the conversation to end, Charles walked past Fana and returned to the beach. Fana stared at his back, disapprovingly.
Charles swung his injured body into the plane, Fana behind him, and they took off. Taking a more careful look at the archipelago, he found flat ground that they could land on. He descended then, and slowly nudged the plane to the edge of a pine tree thicket, covering it with leaves and branches he'd gathered with Fana, to camouflage it from above.
After that, they went to work on plane maintenance. He deftly removed the metal hydride battery stack and cleaned the tank, suction cup, and ejection chute. Fana picked up shattered gla.s.s that had landed on the seat, fitted a backup windshield that had been kept in the enclosure, and wiped clean the instruments Charles had taken apart.
Her mood lightened gradually as they worked. At first, she made fun of Charles' incredibly polite, respectful manner of speech, but she slowly gave up on changing that, and while she awkwardly did her share of the work, talked casually.
That last night, she'd gone to get water on her own, that she'd swam in the ocean at night, that she cut her hair because she wanted to be born anew; Fana spoke, wanting responses from Charles.
He, in turn, kept the conversation flowing and, wiping away sweat with his sleeves, completed maintenance as the sun pa.s.sed the southern pinnacle.
"Are you hungry?"
"Actually, I'm quite starved, as I haven't eaten anything since last night."
"Same. Lets go fishing in that river, then."
Charles plucked two fishing rods from the enclosure and carried them over his shoulder. Fana smiled and ran across the gra.s.s plain.
After turning around once to shout to him, she kept running.
Colorful b.u.t.terflies flitted about the flowers on the plain. Thick, green mountains surrounded them, making the plains look like a secluded garden. And pa.s.sing through the palm tree thicket at the edge of the plains, they reached a river flowing from the mountains.
Big, b.u.mpy stones protruded from the river bank and the river itself. It was shallow enough that you could simply walk across it. The riverbed was filled with rounded stones, and blue fish could be seen swimming against the current. The summer sun carved shadows of the fish into the riverbed. Thick, green-colored trees dotted the other side of the river, and some light pink birds with oddly-shaped beaks cried weird sounds. Harsh sunlight dominated most of the sight, and the complex shadows born from the sunlight was easy on the eyes.
"Wow, what a beautiful river," Fana said to Charles, who arrived a moment later.
"Quite a wonderful place. Shall we camp here tonight?"
Fana took her fishing rod, sat down on a large stone protruding from the river bank, and threw the hook in. Charles also flung his baited steel fishing rod into the clean river, propped the rod up in the river bank, and rolled onto his back.
The blue sky filled his vision.
The clear azure, the pure white clouds, the colors were engraved into Charles' sight. It was an endless summer landscape.
The spell of stasis, held by the season of summer, soaked into his brain, and even the conservative Charles felt a certain rush of freedom.
Still lying down, he looked at Fana, sitting on the stone and watching her line. She had a soft expression as she concentrated on the river.
How peaceful, Charles thought.
He was tired of a sky filled with bullets and kuurai. He didn't want to see more ma.s.ses of people being dumped into the ocean from an airship split in two. He was tired of explosions and anti-air gunfire and metal spinning out of control.
Charles just wanted to fly.
How wonderful could it be if he could just fly, without caring about enemies or allies, with Fana in the back seat.
If he could, with Fana, pa.s.s through countless cloud steeples, cut through torn-up clouds, ride on the wind, and fly wherever, forever.
But realizing what he was dreaming about, Charles shut down his imagination.
He was confused about Fana's existence in his dreams.
He dreamed about flying without limits. There was no need for Fana in that dream. She was the imperial prince's fiancée, after all, and had nothing to do with an orphan-turned-pilot.
He had to remember his place.
Charles kept repeating that to himself. Part of his heart strained against that oppression, but he sealed that up with force. He was afraid of dancing to the tune of his own shallow thoughts.
Then, Fana looked at him. Their eyes locked. His heart jumped.
"Charles, it's being pulled."
"Your fishing rod. Get up, hurry!"
He glanced at the rod propped up in the river bed. It was being tugged here and there. He hurriedly got up and pulled the rod; he had hooked two large char.
"Ah, I got something, too," Fana shouted from her stone seat. Her fishing rod was also bending violently. After a moment, along with a white spray, the fish caught on Fana's fishing rod was pulled out of the water. Her joyful shout bounced off the surrounding rocks.
After gathering branches and leaves from the pine tree thicket and lighting it with a yellow phosphorous match, he placed round stones on the fire. He then placed the salted Char on the glowing-red stones. After a short wait, a savory scent drifted into Fana's nose.
"Thanks for the meal."
She grabbed the Char's head and tail, and bit right into it. The savory, roasted skin along with the oily fish meat, went straight into her stomach. The fresh fish nurtured by clean, unpolluted water brought a smile to Fana's face.
"This is wonderful, Charles. Maybe you should quit being a pilot and become a cook?"
"I'll think about it."
"May I say something shameful? I want to eat more."
"What a coincidence, I thought the same."
The two of them threw their lines back into the river, and resumed eating. Because these islands were not frequented by people, even fake bait was enough to catch fish at an amusing rate.
Fana and Charles feasted on the river fish to their hearts' content. At some point, he even forgot about his wounds, and was gobbling prey like an animal trying to recuperate from blood-loss. She, in turn, looked happily at Charles from the side, and was satisfied by the meal under the sun.
But there were rude intruders upon that carefree time of theirs.
Instinctively, Charles looked up at the sky. An ominous propeller sound descended from the blue. Charles looked at Fana and firmly said to her.
"That sounds bad. My Lady, let's hide under the trees."
Both of them scurried like wild rabbits, flinging themselves into the pine tree thicket by the river.
Charles glared in the direction of the noise. At about a 500 meter alt.i.tude, an Amatsukami patrol plane was scouring the island.
The plane cruised over the island, as if licking it, and then moved over to the next island.
Fana furrowed her eyebrows and asked, "What was that?"
"An Amatsukami reconnaissance plane. The fleet we ran from yesterday is probably parked in the area. They probably know we're on Sierra Cadis, because of flight limitations."
"I guess we can't stay here forever."
"Even if they know we're on the archipelago, they don't know which island we're on. They're probably still using reconnaissance planes to scout the ten or so islands. Eventually they'll start landing, if they have an idea of where we are, but we should be safe for one or two days."
Fana anxiously looked at the sky. Charles thought for a moment, then continued.
"It's highly probable that the enemy's surrounded the archipelago. Aside from the ones trying to find us by flying over us, there should be some waiting for us to take off. This has become quite a situation."
"So it's dangerous to stay, but also dangerous to leave?"
"Yes. We particularly need the sky to be cloudy to leave. If we take off in clear weather, a recon plane will immediately see us and contact the fleet, and we'll be hounded by Shinden again."
"What a bother," Charles muttered. Then he noticed Fana's expression was darkening. It was probably heavy on her, as she'd just discovered the fearsomeness of aerial combat yesterday.
"The plane is hidden pretty well, so unless we mess up big-time, we should be safe on this island for a day or two. We just need to run into the tree shades whenever we hear propellers. There's no need to be overly scared." He forced a smile, to cheer her up.
The sun was beginning to set when Fana, who'd been lying by the riverside, suddenly remembered something and made a suggestion.
"Charles, shall we do some mountain-climbing?"
"When we were looking down from the plane, I saw something yellow on the other side of the mountain. I wanted to know what that was."
She was pointing at a bowl-shaped mountain. It was covered by short gra.s.s, and didn't look like a difficult climb.
"Ahh, it's a clump of wild flowers. It's not that rare."
"It's rare to me. Come on, can we go?"
Not having any reason to refuse, they crossed the river using stepping stones, walked through a dense forest, and made it to the foothills.
Panting, Fana started up the slope. While moving forward, she looked behind her often, both to gaze at the landscape that included the river they'd been fishing in hours ago, and to look at Charles, faithfully following her.
Sunlight shone from the side. Sweat glistened on Fana's pure, white skin. As the slope reached its end, Fana began running, and looked down from the mountain she'd climbed.
"Amazing." Fana's whisper was swallowed up by the wind that came from the beach and blew up the mountain.
The foot of the mountain was covered completely by the yellow petals of wild flowers and the watery, thick green color of gra.s.s. At the far end of the foot was a cliff, and beyond it was the ultramarine ocean, the silhouette of white c.u.mulonimbus clouds floating over the horizon.
The heavy scent of gra.s.s flowed into her nose. White b.u.t.terflies flitted between the tens of thousands of petals. Every time the ocean breeze blew, the field of flowers bent one way, and the sunlight beaming down was deflected by the petals and leaves, scattering the glittering light as far as the eye could see.
With the landscape of abundance in front of her, Fana simply stood, breath-taken, before finally taking a step into the garden of flowers.By the time Charles had reached the top, Fana had already plowed right into the yellow field.
This time it was Charles' turn to be breath-taken.
The clear, blue sky, the lulling ocean, the chain of c.u.mulonimbus clouds, the garden of flowers - all of it served to make Fana del Moral even more beautiful.
Blown by a soft wind, her chin-length silver-white hair, her silver-white eyes, her pure-white skin, the white flight-suit… Fana's appearance, devoid of color, looked like something cut out of this world amidst the sea of color.
Charles couldn't step into that scene. If he tried, the perfection of the scene would be cracked and shattered.
But Fana had no idea what Charles was thinking. Noticing him standing, dumbfounded, she turned around and smiled innocently.
"See, isn't it amazing?"
"Beyond my imagination."
"I feel like my soul's being bathed. Lets have a walk."
Holding down her wind-blown hair with one hand, she urged Charles onwards.
The two of them walked through the garden of wild flowers together. As they absent¬mindedly conversed, they walked straight through the field, and arrived at the cliff.
Standing at the greenery of the cliff, Fana stared at the blue horizon.
The sun, beginning to tilt, was radiating its bra.s.s color before Fana. If they flew west, toward the sun, they'd arrive at the imperial capital Esmeralda, where the imperial prince Carlo was waiting.
Fana's face darkened. She turned to Charles. Standing behind her like an obedient servant, he looked at her with worry.
"Is something wrong?"
"Nothing." Fana hurriedly adopted a stoic facade, and looked at the horizon again.
Charles quietly gazed at Fana's back.
Fana wanted to say something, Charles felt. But he didn't inquire. He felt it wasn't his position to do so.
Gradually, the sun fell, and the western sky was stained red. Fana, who'd been silent, turned to Charles,
"Are you bored?"
"No, not at all."
"I want to be here, a bit longer."
"As my Lady wishes."
Fana smiled faintly, then sat down on the gra.s.s, legs stretched out in front of her.
A seagull cut across the western sky, its white wings taut. The underbelly of the cloud over them had become red.
Charles wordlessly stood behind Fana. Still gazing at the sun that was setting, Fana pointed to the s.p.a.ce next to her.
"Would you like to sit?"
After a moments' hesitation, Charles did as he was told, and sat down next to Fana.
"Thank you for listening to my selfishness."
"I'm used to it."
Fana smiled at Charles' light joke.
The two of them sat about a half-a-step apart, and gazed at the red-stained clouds, at the sky that was clinging onto shreds of blue.
The sound of waves came from across the cliff. The scent of the summer night was mixed into the wind.
"It feels so good," Fana whispered. She laid down on the gra.s.s. "It really feels so good," She repeated, still staring up. The clouds in the sky were all turning the color of the evening.
"I feel like we've met once before, a long time ago. Am I imagining things?" Fana, still lying down and staring up, asked him. A strong star was glimmering in the east.
Charles hesitated, unsure how to answer.
But he thought there was nothing to hide. So he decided to answer honestly.
"Actually, we have met, a long, long time ago. You probably don't remember, but when I was a kid, I was a garden-hand at House del Moral."
"My mother was a maid at the mansion, so I lived in the little shed in the garden. I wasn't ever in a position to see the Lady, but once, we met, when I was picking on a pig. You scolded me, saying don't pick on weak things."
Charles chuckled at the memory.
Fana sat up, opened her eyes, and stared at Charles' face. She was desperately going through her childhood memories, but she couldn't remember.
"I'm sorry, I don't remember."
"No surprise, it was a very short meeting."
"But still. That you used to work at my house…"
"Yes. I worked at that house for about two years. When I was nine, my mother was forced out of the mansion for disobeying Duke Diego. The Lady was six at the time, so it's not likely you remember."
"Wait, Charles, was your mother Amatsuvian?"
"You remember? Yes, she was skinny, and pockmarked, but she was kind."
"My. Oh dear."
Fana's trembling voice portrayed her shock. Charles kept talking, with a smile.
"Even after we were forced out of the mansion, my mother was always proud of what she'd done. She was happy the Lady kept eagerly listening to Amatsukami stories. But she regretted not being able to say farewell."
"Charles, but that… that's-"
Droplets streamed down Fana's cheeks. One, two, countless droplets slid to her chin.
Charles knew his mother had gone against the duke's orders, and had told stories to Fana.
Fana's tears told Charles the two were far closer than he'd ever known.
"She treated me very well. In that cold mansion, she was the only one that was warm. And she was forced out because of me. I…I don't know how to apologize."
"My mother did it of her own accord. There's no need for the Lady to fret over it."
"Is she still well?" Still crying, Fana choked out the words.
"She died of illness five years ago. It was a peaceful, painless death," Charles lied. She had actually been stabbed and killed by a molester soon after being forced out, but there was no need to tell the truth.
"How horrible, that's too fast. I'll pray for your mother from now on."
"My mother will be grateful. I actually had no idea the Lady and my mother were that close."
"I don't have happy memories of my childhood. I only remember being taught to become a doll for father. But I remember your mother telling me stories as I lay in bed. The time before I slept was the happiest I ever was."
"Is that so? Mother is probably smiling happily in heaven, hearing those words. Maybe she guided me to be here like this, too."
"I'm… overwhelmed, I don't know what to say. I didn't know something this unbelievable was possible…that Charles is her son. I should have paid more attention to poetry lessons. Maybe I'd be more able to say what I'm feeling."
"I understand how you feel. Both my mother and I. Please wipe your tears. They should be kept until you reach the imperial capital in safety."
Fana tried to do as he said, tried to stifle her tears. But she couldn't stop. She rolled onto her back and covered her eyes with both hands, trying to resist the feelings that welled up.
Charles' expression loosened, and he gazed at the reddening sky. He quietly sat at Fana's side until she stopped crying.
The eldest daughter of House del Moral, which essentially reigned over San Martilia and everything regarding it, probably should have looked at one servant as a disposable tool. The kindness she exhibited as she cried for his mother seeped into his soul.
He wanted to see an empire led by her as the empress. For that, he'd have to overcome everything tomorrow.
Even if he died, he would bring Fana to the imperial prince Carlo, Charles vowed to himself again.
But as he re-affirmed his vow, pain streaked through his heart.
He was surprised at the unexpected feeling, and a bit stunned. Of course, he knew immediately he was envious of the imperial prince.
And the fact that he was envious of the imperial prince hurt Charles' pride. A mere refugee, being envious of a man who would be entrusted with leading the Levahm Empire of over 210,000,000 people, was unbelievably stupid. It was beyond simply knowing his place.
"I'm a lost cause," He muttered to himself. He was irritated. He felt like a child undergoing p.u.b.erty, going up and down with Fana's every action.
Fana is the imperial prince Carlo's fiancée.
He re-iterated the fact to himself.
Charles Karino was executing the mission to re-unite the imperial prince, was entrusted with the future of the Levahm Empire, with his fiancée. Nothing more, nothing less.
He understood that … but his heart still hurt.
I'm so stupid. He silently derided himself. That night, as he lay on top of pebbles, he covered himself in a blanket and continued berating himself.
Sleep didn't come quickly.
The flight plan he'd drawn up in his head was replaced by the silhouette of Fana, and the imperial prince Carlo played around with it, slowly staining it with his color.
The pain in his heart was relentless. Finally, Charles got up, swigged some brandy, and relied on alcohol to sleep. It wasn't really a good way to go about it, but otherwise it seemed like he'd struggle to sleep all the way to the morning.
But just a tiny bit of alcohol simply pressed his imagination onward. Cornered by his mind, he screwed his eyes shut and poured more amber-colored liquid into his stomach from the bottle.
'Drunk', would describe Charles as he fell asleep. Half the bottle had been emptied.
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