The Lilac Princess

Part 15

By Lady Dante

Fractured Dreams…

She was alone again. Walking. Once again traveling with no real destination. Worse, this time it was dark and silent. She couldn't even hear the sound of her own steps. No forest noises, no birdsong, no sunlight boring down on her in merciless beams. Nothing. She didn't see the point of continuing to walk, but couldn't bring herself to stop. She found her way before, perhaps she would again. If she walked long enough, she was bound to find someone or something, wasn't she? Assuming there was anything to find in the dark mist. She anxiously quickened her pace, desperate to be on her way. She made an effort to convince herself that she was traveling toward something this time, not just away. Toward the only thing she wanted.

Home. She wanted to go home. The word seared her fragile heart. For her, home wasn't a place. She hadn't had the luxury of remaining in one place long enough for it to leave that sort of imprint. Home was a group of people, most of whom were gone now. Through all the turmoil and loss, she always had a home with the people she loved…but her home was gone now. Torn asunder and beyond repair. She didn't have a home anymore because everyone she loved was gone.

She walked anyway. Time ceased to have any meaning for her, as the darkness never changed. At some point, she realized that she wasn't tired. She should have been weary by now-- she must have been walking for a very  long time--but she felt fine. She wasn't hungry or thirsty and her arm…how strange. Her arm didn't hurt at all. She frowned and ran her hand along the spot where the bullet entered her pale flesh. There was no wound. Weird. She reached up to run a hand through her cropped hair and gasped as her fingers tangled in the long braid hanging down her back. She had hair again. Very weird. She shook her head and started walking faster. She should get out of this place as quickly as possible. This place was too strange.

"Why so glum, sweetie?"

She froze in her tracks, whirling around to search for the source of the sound. She peered into the murky haze, trying to distinguish some recognizable form. She turned in a slow circle, squinting into the mist. The fact that she couldn't see anything made her nervous. From out of the darkness, she heard whistling. It was a happy tune and one that seemed vaguely familiar.

"What's got my little Luie so sad?"

"I…I'm lost," she stuttered, growing fearful of the disembodied voice.

"Well, now you're found."

The sound was directly behind her now and she spun on her heals to face the mysterious stranger. She let out a little gasp as she realized who found her and stood staring up at the man in stunned silence. She remained mute for a moment as a joyous smile spread across her face.

"Captain Damon!"

 She threw her arms open and squealed as the man picked her up. He swung her around and gave her a tight hug before setting her back on her feet.

"Oh, Captain Damon, I missed you!" She wrapped her arms around the man and held on tight, afraid that he might disappear into the mist once again.

The man returned her embrace tenderly and replied, "I missed you too, sweetie…but, you know, I've been with you all along."

"Huh?" She peered up at him in confusion. The man smiled affectionately and patted her cheek.

"I'm always with you, Luie," he paused and tapped her chest, "in here. I'm always in your heart and your memories just like you're always in mine. The same is true for everyone you love…Ingrid, Mrs. Katrina, the sisters…"

"And Zechs," she added quietly. Remembering that no one else ever called him Zechs, she corrected herself. "I mean Milli."

"And Milli and Zechs," he agreed, then added with a wink, "and Milliardo." She was puzzled by his use of each name, as though he were speaking of three people. Her curious expression made the man laugh and he grinned down at her.

"You'll get that later," he chuckled. "Mind if I join you on your walk?"

"I don't mind," she giggled and took his hand. As they began to walk, she turned to the man and asked, "Um…Captain Damon…do you know where we're going?"

"That's up to you."


"Where we go depends on what you decide, Luie."

"What does that mean?"

He stopped and knelt in front of her. "You know, I think I might have a present for you in my jacket here."

She glowered at the change in subject. She wanted to know what was going on, not play some childish game she had outgrown years ago. She stared at the man, hoping her grim expression would convince him of her determination. He simply grinned at her, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief. She found herself beginning to grin back. He always brought her great surprises. She finally gave in to the temptation and began rifling through the man's pockets. She pulled at his breast pocket and looked inside. What she saw startled her and she slammed her hand over the pocket as though to trap what was within.

"There's a light in there."

The man didn't respond verbally, but continued to smile at her warmly.

"I mean…like a real light," she insisted, "your pocket is glowing inside."

He still said nothing, but nodded once in confirmation. She cautiously opened the pocket for a second look and quickly closed it once more. There really was a light in his pocket. A warm glow, inviting, yet laced with ribbons of sadness. She suddenly understood that the light was what he was referring to earlier. Their destination was her decision and one option was the light in his pocket. She was suddenly consumed with apprehension. Something told her that if she chose that light, it would take her back to where she came from and she wasn't certain that was a good. There was pain back there. Pain and loneliness.

"Yes, Luie, life is full of pain and loneliness."

She looked at him and listened. Oddly enough, she wasn't surprised that he knew what she was thinking. She always felt she could talk to him about anything. He knew some things about her that even Zechs didn't know and he always gave her good advice. She decided to listen carefully as the man spoke. She was so glad to hear his voice again. She had almost forgotten the sound. She wanted to memorize it.

"Life is also full of love and kindness," the man continued as he gently tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. "If you stay here, you'll take some of that compassion away from the world…and let me tell you, kid," he smiled sadly and rubbed her hair, "the world needs all of the people like you it can get. You have so much love to give and there are so many people back there who need that…who need you."

"You're going to make me go back."

"No. I can't make you do anything. It's your choice, Luie."

"If I decide to stay with you, where will we go?"

"I can't tell you that."

She scowled at him in frustration. Typical grown up. Never a straight answer. "Then how am I supposed to decide?"

The man chuckled at her aggravation and mussed her hair. "Geez, kid, when did you get so serious?"

"I'm just trying to make an informed decision," she said as she crossed her arms stubbornly.

"Informed decision? Now you sound like a politician!" She glared at him again. "All right, all right," he chuckled, "It's actually much simpler than you think," the man began, his mirth fading into a tender smile. "You have good instincts, sweetheart, you just have learn to use them. Listen to your heart…trust yourself, Luie."

She considered his words and tried to listen to her heart. She didn't like what it was saying. She didn't really want to go back. She wanted to stay here with him. It might be strange here, but she wasn't in pain and she wasn't alone.  She struggled with her decision for some time, remaining silent as she tried to make sense of her current situation. He said there were people back there who needed her. She should go back if someone needed her help, shouldn't she?

"Fai il tuo dovere, e lascia il resto al Signore," she murmured.

"That's right," the man nodded and pulled her into a loving embrace. "Do your duty and leave the rest to God. Do what you can and believe God will take care of everything else."

She clung to the man tightly, burying her face in his shoulder. She knew what she had to do, but she didn't want to leave him behind.

"I'll go back, Captain Damon…but I don't want you to go away again."

"Hey, it's not like we won't see each other again. I'll be here when you come back and like I said, I'm always with you," he pulled back and pointed to her chest again, "in here."

She nodded and embraced the man one last time. He held her and kissed the top of her head, offering what reassurance he could. After a few moments, she stepped back and indicated she was ready to leave. The man opened his pocket once more and asked her to look inside. He told her to concentrate on the light and it would take her back to the other place.  She leaned forward and peered inside his pocket, watching the glow grow larger as she stared. Just before the light covered her, she whispered, "I know I wasn't really yours, but…you were a good father, Captain Damon."

"You're a good daughter…I'm proud of you, Luie." Those words lingered in her mind as the light surrounded her, sweeping her away from the misty limbo and back to the living.


Noin's thoughts became disjointed as she slowly reclaimed consciousness. The little girl gradually regained sensation in her limbs, then the rest of her injured body. She felt heavy at first, the lingering effects of the darkness weighing her down. The darkness dissipated eventually and reality returned. She was in pain again…ruthless pain and cold loneliness…everything she had wanted to leave behind in favor of the other place. Noin tried not to be disappointed. After all, it was her decision and she chose to come back.

"I think she's waking up…go fetch the nurse."

The child heard the voices, but the sounds were muffled. Everything still seemed very far away. She concentrated on the voices, willing herself awake.

"Luie, child, open your eyes for me."

The voice was kind and soft. As her senses returned, the little girl felt a hand on her head, stroking her hair. She wasn't alone after all, she realized with relief.

"I know it's difficult, but please try my child. Try to open your eyes for me."

Noin complied and her eyelids fluttered with the effort. She squinted against the unexpectedly harsh light and strained to focus.

"Thank God, …don't be afraid, child, you're safe now."

The hand continued to stroke her hair as the little girl began to register the image of a face hovering over her. A lady.

"My poor child." Noin felt the lady kiss her forehead lightly. "I was so afraid I might lose you again."

"Sister?" The girl spoke hoarsely, her throat raw and dry. It couldn't be. Sister was dead. Maybe she didn't make it back after all. Make it back…where was she? She had been somewhere else…somewhere…

"Luie? No, no…don't go back to sleep yet. Try to stay awake a little while. Come now, you used to hate sleeping…"

That was true. Noin always thought she'd miss something while asleep. It used to drive the nuns crazy…maybe it was... "Sister Marguerite?"

"Yes, Luie, it's Sister Marguerite."

But Sister was dead. "Am I still dead?"

"No, child, you're not dead. You were hurt…don't you remember?"

"I thought you were dead…" Her pain began to catch up with the little girl as her mind cleared. She gasped as a sharp pang shot through her arm.

"Lie still, now. You're still very sick…" Sister Marguerite soothed the child as she spoke, "but everything will be all right now…just rest…"

"I thought you were dead," Noin repeated. Her voice broke as she attempted to speak. She wanted to sit up and hug Sister, find a way to prove this was truly happening, but her pain prevented any movement. Was this real? Was she really Sister? Exhausted and confused, the little girl broke down. She felt tears flow as Sister Marguerite gathered her up like an infant. Noin clung to the nun, finally convinced that the woman was real. She was alive. Noin wasn't alone.

"It's all right, Luie," Marguerite comforted as she rocked the little girl, "you're safe here. Your home, now."

Home. Not alone. She could let go of the other place now. Her duty was here with Sister and the people who needed her. She didn't know who they were yet, but she would try her best to be there for those people when the time came. She would start over again, just as she had so many times before, but this time without Zechs. The thought saddened her, even frightened her a bit, but somehow she couldn't allow herself to believe they would be parted forever. The Alliance might not kill him. Maybe they would keep him alive for a while. Maybe long enough for Noin to grow up and find him one day. One day…but right now she had to get well. She had to get strong again and then she would be able to help.


Zechs woke up in darkness and pain. His arms were immobilized behind his body, preventing the effort to push himself upright. He rolled onto his back and attempted to open his eyes. He squinted and looked up at the ceiling, focusing on the only object visible in the darkened room. There was a small light fixture hanging from the ceiling on exposed wires, swaying hypnotically. As he watched the faint movement of light, he blinked away the dried blood obscuring his sight. He lay on the hard floor of his damp cell and struggled to recall what had happened. Oh, right. Karl happened.

The boy shifted in an attempt to alleviate the pressure on his arms, but only succeeded in making the dull throb in his head worse. He groaned softly and ceased his movements. He took a deep breath, clearing his mind and focusing his thoughts. He needed a plan. Zechs looked around the tiny cell, careful not to move his head any more than necessary. The room was empty. No bed, no sink, nothing but the naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling. His arms were bound, but his legs were not. If he could muster enough strength to sit up, he could stand.

On the third, very painful, attempt, the boy managed to make it to his feet. Zechs stood unsteadily until a wave of dizziness overcame him. He stumbled and sat down hard, the sudden contact with the concrete floor jarring his already battered body. Think. He had to think of a plan. So far, the only two people he had seen since being tossed in the cell were Karl and the other cadet. It was possible they were the only ones who knew his secret. As the boy shifted his position, he felt his pocket knife in his boot. Figures Karl would be too stupid to search him. If he could escape before anyone else found out, perhaps…perhaps what? Zechs didn't have anything to go back for. He couldn't go to Relena, especially now that someone knew he was alive. He couldn't protect her anymore…and Noin…was gone. The events of the past few days flooded his mind, renewing his grief. He shuddered as his mind's eye watched the girl fall to her death.  Noin was dead.  The final blow to his wounded spirit. He lost the last person who cared about him. She was dead and it was his fault. His broken heart screamed that he should have done something, that it should have been him. He couldn't do anything right. He should be dead, not her. What was the point in escaping now? It would be better just to let them kill him.

He sat there, lost in his morbid thoughts, until Karl and the other cadet walked in. They grinned smugly at the prone boy, circling him like two vultures over a decaying carcass. Zechs didn't bother to look up. Karl finally flipped on the light, temporarily blinding the boy at his feet. The jailors laughed at their prisoner's reaction and taunted him ceaselessly. When they tired of words, the sadistic boys decided to try something else.

"I'm bored, Viktor. What say we have a little fun before the colonel arrives."

"Sounds good to me."

"Just be sure not to go for his face…gotta be sure the colonel will recognize him."

"Hey, you're the one who almost got kicked out for beating that prisoner to death."

"Well, the guy shouldn't have pissed me off." He paused as he grinned down at Zechs. "I did warn him."

Zechs studied the older boy. Karl had grown quite a bit since their last meeting. He now showed the early signs of a husky physique and his stubby hands already bore calluses across the knuckles. He was every bit the bully Zechs remembered and more. He had grown into a cruel young man who took pleasure in causing pain. The Alliance cadet had shot Noin without a second thought. He certainly wouldn't hesitate to beat someone to death. Unfortunately, it seemed Karl had other plans for Zechs. Karl wasn't planning to kill the younger boy, just torture him for a while until his superiors arrived to take over. This was a game, a diversion.

"You know, your highness, I should thank you. As soon as the colonel gets here and sees my present…well, thanks to you I'm gonna be an officer."

"Your welcome."

Zechs wasn't certain why he bothered to speak, but the result of his comment made the boy regret it. The two older boys proceeded to kick their prisoner until he slumped over in pain. They laughed and congratulated each other on their success in avoiding the boy's face, unaware of the mounting fury smoldering within Zechs. He had been tired and ready to die when they entered, but now he found himself succumbing to his anger. He was angry at Karl for what he did at the church, but he was also angry with himself for allowing Noin to die. He and Karl should be punished. Zechs knew the Alliance would kill him eventually, permitting him to pay for his mistake, but Karl would go free. That was not acceptable.

Zechs was once again jarred from his thoughts by the conversation between the two older boys. He had ignored their adolescent remarks until he heard her name.

"Yeah, I think her name was Lois or Luie or something…almost wish I hadn't shot her. The officers might have had fun with the little freak."

"Shut up, Karl," Zechs growled through gritted teeth.

"I wasn't talking to you!" He shouted, punctuating his statement with a vicious kick. He chuckled and added, "You still sticking up for her? She's dead…"

"Shut up, Karl." His voice was calmer now, his tone eerily quiet.

"Damn near blew her head off, didn't I Viktor?"

Before the other boy had a chance to respond, Zechs let out an animalistic scream and charged the older boy, slamming Karl into the wall with enough force to knock the breath out of them both. Viktor easily pulled the winded Zechs off the cadet and tossed him back on the floor. Zech felt the blood rushing through his veins. His anger was truly all he had left now. If Karl was going to pay for what he did, then it was up to Zechs to exact retribution. If he could just get his hands free, he could reach the knife in his boot. His seething rage robbed Zechs of any hope of reasonable thought. He didn't know what exactly he would do to the older boy; all that mattered was that Karl be made to suffer as he had made Noin suffer.

"You know, Karl," Zechs panted, "this would be more fun if I put up a fight, don't you think?"

Karl smiled maliciously and agreed. He instructed Viktor to retrieve the keys to the handcuffs and waited. The other cadet returned quickly, leaving the door behind him wide open as he unlocked Zechs shackles. The second his hands were free Zechs turned on Viktor, shoving the boy off his feet and through the door before either cadet could react. He slammed the door shut and heard the satisfying click as the automatic lock engaged. The key card to the cell was attached to the key ring, which now rested in the far corner of the room.  It would take the other cadet sometime to get the door open, leaving Karl and Zechs alone to 'talk.'

The cadet immediately pulled his gun from its holster only to have it kicked across the cell by his prisoner. Karl, no longer enjoying the game, pulled a knife from his gear belt and lunged for Zechs, preventing the younger boy from reaching his own weapon. The two struggled for several minutes, rolling on the floor in a violent heap, each struggling for possession of the weapon. Zechs managed to knock the knife out of the older boy's hand and scrambled after it, but Karl caught him. The older boy retrieved his knife and spun Zechs over. Karl raised the knife with one hand holding the boy down with the other. The look in the cadet's eyes was one of pure bloodlust. Evidently,  Karl no longer cared if he lost his reward, he just wanted to kill. So did Zechs.

In the brief pause before Karl brought the knife down into the younger boy's chest, Zechs managed to retrieve his own knife and plunge it into his captor's chest. It took a moment for the action to register on Karl's face. He seemed frozen in time, his arm still raised in preparation to deliver a killing blow. Zechs twisted his own knife and pulled upward, ripping the wound open further. He wanted to be sure. He wanted to feel Karl's heart stop. With one ragged exhale, Karl fell over, knife still protruding from his body. Zechs clung to the handle as the other boy fell, his knuckles turning white with the effort.

Zechs watched as blood oozed from the gaping wound and stained his hand. He killed him. He panted as the adrenaline continued to course through his veins. His body trembled as the tension in his muscles increased. He killed him. He was a killer now. He should be ashamed. He should ask for forgiveness, but he couldn't. He wasn't sorry. Karl was a beast and beasts were to be slaughtered. Zechs looked at his bloodstained hand and laughed. It wasn't a victorious laugh, but a helpless sound emanating from a shattered soul. He was a killer now. He had become the very thing he hated.

Zechs was so stunned by what happened that he didn't hear Viktor open the door and rush in behind him. Taken by surprise, the younger boy was once again pinned and his arms were secured behind his back. He didn't struggle this time, there was no need. He had his vengeance, now he had to pay for it. Viktor was shouting as he dragged Zechs from the cell. The cadet pulled his side arm, prepared to shoot his comrade's murderer but was stopped by the sudden appearance of the colonel.

"I believe I requested the prisoner be kept alive, cadet."

"Ye—yes, sir." Viktor threw the colonel a clumsy salute. "But he…he just…Karl's dead, Colonel Treize."

"Is he?" Treize Kushrenada raised an eyebrow in curiosity as he gazed down at the bloody prisoner.

"Yes, sir." Viktor, still shaken, released his grip on Zechs, allowing the boy to sink to his knees in exhaustion.

"Release his bonds, cadet."

"But sir!"

"Do it now, cadet." Treize spoke in a smooth, even voice, no hint of alarm evident. He waited for the boy to be freed and spoke again. "Tell me, cadet…who knows about the boy?"

"No one knows who he is, colonel, if that's what you mean…just me and Karl."

"Good." The 17-year-old Specials officer smiled politely as he drew his sidearm. "No one must know about the boy."

"Of course not, sir."

Viktor took a step away from the boy, apparently expecting the bullet to go right through the prisoner's head. Treize aimed carefully and pulled the trigger. A sharp crack echoed through the hall as the young cadet slumped to the floor. The young colonel kept his weapon pointed at the still form until he was quite certain the cadet was dead. Poor, stupid boy. Treize made a mental note to find out his name later.

The prisoner gazed steadily from the heap on the floor to the young colonel. The boy staggered to his feet as Treize approached, eyes darting about as though looking for a possible escape route. Their eyes locked, each sizing up the other, blue on blue. Finally, Treize smiled and put his weapon away. He casually adjusted his uniform, acting as though shooting his own men was a common occurrence. The young officer glanced into the open cell and, at last,  turned his attention back to the battered prisoner.

"What is your name?"

Treize knew the answer, of course. Even if the cadets hadn't informed him before, he would have recognized Prince Milliardo Peacecraft in an instant. The boy bore a remarkable resemblance to his father King Stefan. Treize asked the question to see the boy's reaction. The young prince scowled up at the officer for several minutes before responding.


Treize arched his eyebrow again, this time in vague amusement. They both recognized each other--he knew, the boy knew—but the young prince stubbornly refused to admit to his birthright. Treize would have to work very hard to gain this child's trust. Once that was accomplished, the young officer was certain it would prove to be worth the trouble. Barely 11-years-old and the boy had already killed with great skill. He definitely had potential.

"Why did you kill that boy?"

"He was trying to kill me." The boy's calm demeanor impressed Treize. A great deal happened in the last few minutes and the child seemed to handle it remarkably well.

"Is that the only reason?"

"He deserved to die." A good, if evasive, answer. However, Treize decided it wasn't enough.


"Because he…he just did." The boy stumbled briefly over his reply, his eyes closing momentarily before he settled on an answer.

"What did he do to make you hate him enough to slice his body open?" Perhaps a more descriptive phrase would prompt a more thorough answer.

The boy's gaze locked with his own, as Treize waited for an answer. The child seemed intent on boring a hole through the young colonel's head using nothing but eyes. He was good, but Treize was better. He met the boy's ferocious stare with a cool one of his own. If this was a power struggle, Treize intended to win. The boy began to fidget after a few minutes, his irritation finally forcing him to provide an answer to the colonel's question.

"He killed my friend."

"So you killed him to avenge your friend."

The boy didn't answer but averted his eyes angrily. Treize smiled in satisfaction as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. He placed his hand on the boy's head and gently tilted his face up. The young man surveyed the boy's older wounds then proceeded to dab at the fresh blood trickling from the young boy's nose. After successfully stemming the flow, Treize took the boy's bloodied hand and wiped it clean.

"You do understand that you've only taken care of part of the problem?"

"What do you mean?"

"People like that cadet are only part of a larger evil spreading over the world, suffocating it…the same evil that destroyed a lovely, peaceful country so many years ago…"

The battered young boy looked up at Treize with eyes devoid of hope. "What do you want from me?"

"I want to help you…will you allow that?" He peered at the boy closely as he spoke, trying to gauge his reaction. He sensed the boy had great potential and could prove to be quite an asset to the Specials, if Treize could gain the boy's trust.

"Do I have a choice?" His voice was hollow and cold.

"Yes. Where we go from here is your decision…Zechs. You may leave on your own or you can come with me."

Treize placed a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder.  The child's life had obviously been very difficult over the past few years and would continue to be whether he lived on the streets or not. The question now was if young 'Zechs' would accept his guidance and friendship. The boy was silent for a few minutes, considering his options and finally nodded.

"All right, I'll go with you."

"Good choice, Zechs." Treize gave his new protégé a pat on the shoulder as he led the boy away.

"You'll teach me how to fight?"

"After you learn to control your temper, yes."

Zechs followed Treize Kushrenada down the corridor and into a new life. Yet another new life, this one to be lived alone. He would go on, his new purpose, not to protect, but to avenge his dead family. Vengeance for his country and the boy he was once, long ago. He would finally get the chance to fight the dragon.

++++++++  End of Part 15, End of The Lilac Princess  ++++++++++++

I considered warning you about what Zechs was going to do to Karl, but I felt the shock was important to the scene. Sorry if I upset anyone.

[bows, blows kisses to audience] I'd like to thank the members of the Academy and….err…..wait, that's not right…oh, yeah. [cough] I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed this story and everyone who offered suggestions or pointed out mistakes (I think I've fixed them all now, but if anyone sees something, e-mail me, please). I'm grateful to all of you for your nice comments and I'm glad you liked the story. As for the sequel, there's some good news and some bad news. Unfortunately, it will be a little while before I can start posting. The good news is, I've been writing bits of it as I've been working on 'Lilac Princess,' so when I do begin posting, I will be able to update more quickly. I hope you think that's a good thing…Anyway, feel free to e-mail me and bug me about when I'm going to post. That should encourage me to get started faster.

One last thing. I'm trying to decide on a title for 'Book II.' I've made a list of suggestions and would like more if anyone wants to give it a shot. I would like to work in the word 'lilacs' if at all possible. The sequel starts at the Lake Victoria Academy and follows Zechs and Noin to the end of the series. E-mail any suggestions to me in the next couple of weeks. My e-mail is on my author profile page. Hmm. I'll make it sort of like a contest. If I chose your title, I'll send you another cyber-lollipop! Thanks!

Disclaimer: I decided, just for fun, to post an actual disclaimer. Here goes…ummm….crap. I've made so many sarcastic disclaimers I can't write a real one…[shrug] Oh, well.