Forty-five minutes had passed since the start of literature class, and already, Sachen was itching herself to execute the plan. Her hands and feet fidgeted, her stomach tickled itself. It almost tipped Sachen into a burst of laughter. Out of such irritation, Sachen scratched the gaps between her fingers. The materials that she and Neha had acquired from the school supplies room, they kept them well in good hands.
Sachen looked at Neha, who was trembling both of her legs. Neha’s eyes dulled like faint stars, and she could see again the lifelessness within her pupils; it might have been that Neha had been sleeping too late at night. Her friend tried to retain focus on the lecture, but the monotonous voice of Ms. Laozina curbed Neha into ennui. When the teacher scratched the chalk on the surface, the ears of the students bled.
Neha’s eyelids curtained her vision, and her ears folded themselves.
Throughout the whole day, she had not utter a single word… as a matter of fact, since a few days ago, she had kept quiet most of the time.
Sachen leaned over to Neha. She winked.
“Are you ready for it? Oh my goodness, I can’t contain myself. It feels so exhilarating, and terrifying also for us to do this. I cannot imagine what the mayhem would be like, you know? Golly, I am about to laugh.”
Neha glimpsed at Sachen, and she nodded. “Y-yeah… but we shouldn’t… give ourselves away too much.” She tapped something inside her dress. It thumped like a board.
“You’re right. Our plan will spoil otherwise. Well, I don’t want to wait any longer. This is now or never.” Sachen gleamed a smile. She desired to ask her friend about she was feeling right now, but it would have been quite sudden and rude.
“I wonder if she is still mad about me yelling at her when we were in the shed. I didn’t mean any harm. My hastiness got the best of me, didn’t it?”
On the clock above the chalkboard, the minute and second hand ticked and clicked as they journeyed through the numbers. Sachen licked her lips, she then shook her right leg so hard that it could fall off.
Her face soaked in sweat. As she followed the minute hand, her eyes swirled. “Tick-tock,” she repeated over and over.
When the time reached the fiftieth minute, Sachen zeroed in towards her teacher. As of now, Ms. Laozina was passing out exam reviews; she walked along the first row, then when she finished that side, she went to the second, then the third. The fourth and fifth rows were the places that Neha and Sachen sat at, respectively.
Ms. Laozina then marched to Neha’s side. With a lick of her finger, she handed the review to the girl. Sachen twinged her face, she grumbled. Growing pale in a matter of seconds, her eyes spiraled and her tongue stuck out. Sachen raised her right arm.
“Teacher, excuse me…” Sachen said in a raspy, sick voice. “I need to go to the nurse…”
“Why is that?” Ms. Laozina slammed the papers onto Sachen’s desk.
“I think I caught the stomach flu…”
“Huh? You were just fine since the morning.”
“No… no… I tried my best to hide my illness… but I can’t hold it in! Please… can I go?”
“I’m sorry Sachen, but you’ll have to wait until class is over.”
Finishing the last row, the teachers strutted to the chalkboard. She folded her hands, glared at the students, and opened her nostrils. Sachen was about to jump on her desk and holler at the woman for disregarding her so-called sickness. This day was the only opportunity to execute the plan only once, and it would be a disaster if Sachen were to do this at the end of the week. The moment to present the truth lied within this hour. There could be no other days than this.
While Sachen maintained her grumbles and affliction, she nudged Neha. Her friend trembled more than before. Neha gripped her hands at the edge of the desk, and she couldn’t lift her eyes at first. From the side, Sachen moved her mouth and said airless words. Neha shook her head. Then with deep breathing, she raised her hand, and daggered her sight to the teacher.
“Um, Ms. Laozina…”
“Yes? What is it my dear?” The teacher curved her lips upwards.
“My friend is in great pain. I saw her like this in the morning… and she almost collapsed on the way to school. I beg for her parents to keep her at home, but they refused. I feel so bad for her, and I don’t want her to be in pain for the rest of her day… I think it would best if she goes to the nurse, so that the problem will be over. That way, she will attend class with a healthy stomach…” Neha shrugged, she jerked her head to the side and hid her blush.
Sachen bolted from her chair. She held herself tightly, she expected the worst of results. Her eyes looked back and forth throughout the classroom, her breath came to a slowdown. The majority of the students whispered to one another in the midst of silence, probably taking the girls as hilarious fools that had nothing in mind but to waste time. By then, the silence withdrew.
Ms. Laozina mumbled incoherent words. Then she showed a smile again. She elevated her voice.
“It’s okay Neha, there’s no way that you would tell lies. I trust you. You can take Sachen to the nurse, since I can tell that Sachen would ditch the last class of the day. But as you should know by now, leave your bags here. I don’t want to be snooping around if you are carrying them to the nurse or even the bathroom.”
Neha’s face reddened even more. She said her thanks; the classmates around her then snickered and pointed fingers at the duo. Neha stood up and went first to the door, and Sachen took her lead. With only six minutes to spare, Sachen could barely wait anymore for the plan, and it pulled her heart so much that she wanted to explode in joy. She could infect the same sentiment to Neha, but the latter might get herself embarrassed.
They left the classroom and hurried to the hallways. Sachen surveyed the area and confirmed that nobody else was present but themselves.
The both of them sighed. They took their steps, and started to walk stilted and slanted. By immediate notice did they pass along an endless row of posters from the walls. Within the posters, sketches of people were raising their fists and guns in the air, with their cheeks bloating and their mouths puckering as though they were fictional caricatures.
On top of the people, words stormed and congested the sky, the sky being the background. The words told something like this: “Let Us Fight for the Motherland! Let Us Defend the Village with All Our Lives!”
Sachen clicked her teeth upon such a message. Lately, the Holy Army had been putting these posters almost every corner and street of the village. She and Neha encountered them from their front door the first thing in the morning; they were everywhere in their neighborhood.
Not much to her surprise, the villagers took an adoration, rather a feverous elation to the message, to the point that they were at the moment, hosting an informal rally in support of the Lama. Sachen scoffed at such a gathering like that. Would the people continue to exhaust themselves for him?
The girls arrived at the middle of the hallway. Before them, a bulletin board was hanging on the wall. They also contained the same posters, and it covered the cork surface. They would not be here for long however.
Sachen curled her right leg and hopped in one place. She nudged at her friend.
“Okay.” Right away, Neha teared off the posters from the board and scattered the remains to the trash can near her. She rolled upwards the bottom of her dress, revealing her short pants and her bare stomach. A coil of paper wrapped around her abdomen and sides. Neha shrunk her belly, and the paper sank to the ground, unveiling itself; it was the same size as the bulletin board. From the side of her pants, Neha took a red-colored pencil, and in a hurry, she wrote large letters on the paper.
She stroked and bolded them with the stiffness of her hands.
“Whoa Neha, that’s kind of neat!” Sachen said.
“Thanks. It says, ‘Urgent Information!!!’ To be honest, I thought of this phrase at the last minute.” Neha flipped the paper to the back, where smudges and black ink covered the whiteness of the space.
“Now it’s my turn. Here we go!” Gazing around her surroundings once more, Sachen relaxed her right leg, and something slid through her limb. Upon reaching Sachen’s toes, a roll of duct tape clattered the tiles.
Sachen then pulled out a load of tape, and bit by bit, she slitted the load into chunks; she got eight in total. She folded the portions only once.
When she was done with that, she planted six chunks on the corners and creases of the paper. With effort, she had finished her part.
“Done. Help me Neha!”
Sachen snatched the right side of the paper, while Neha got the left.
With time running out, they made haste. They hoisted the paper and adhere it to the bulletin board. One minute remained. Sachen lifted her dress, and on her stomach contained the documents that she had kept in security. Lucky for her, no one in her family noticed at all about them.
Using the last two pieces of tape, she stamped them onto the documents; she then posted the valuable items to the paper. Finishing the task, Sachen exhaled all her breath and loosened her arms. She showed a smirk, she then applauded. Neha, in a brief flash, smiled.
“Thank goodness. We made it!” Sachen turned to Neha, and held her hands. “Come on, let’s go back to the classroom. This will sure to cause an uproar!”
“This is good timing, since the soldiers from the northern gate will do a military inspection here at the end of the day.”
“Darn straight! We must remain innocuous however. They would be suspicious soon.” Sachen had a feeling that their plan would work without any mishaps, and that perhaps, the student might be able to stop the Holy Army from coming soon. She imagined the shocking looks on the faces of the soldiers if they were going to take a gander at the bulletin board; and she felt excited when she started to have thoughts about the students’ reactions. Just what would they show in light of this?
The bell rang, and it interrupted Ms. Laozina’s last lecture of the day.
Before she could give details about the exam review, the students swarmed to the door and left the classroom. Along with kids and teenagers from the other rooms and floors, they flooded the hallways.
Neha and Sachen were at odds with the traffic. The claustrophobia in the lack of space, they could barely breathe. They held still in one place while the students cross and hack their way through them. It was soon that most of the kids gathered around the bulletin board. Sachen cackled to herself.
Neha and Sachen went near the stairs and overheard the raucous voices from the middle of the hallways. The kids looked at each other and scratched their heads. They scrutinized the documents as thought they were detectives; they wagged their fingers. Sachen then gazed at the masses. There was one classmate that said the documents could possibly be a forgery… or more distressing, they might be papers that a group of conspirators forced Yebuka to sign the operations with against his own will. Some classmates agreed, others did not. The others sought to refute the person’s conclusion, they stated that the Lama would never sign such things, and that he would arrest them even if they forced him to agree the terms. All in one space, the students exploded into a hurricane of commotion. Fire torched their faces, they fumed vicious words, and some of them proposed to fight. It seemed to the girls that their plan backfired; Sachen had never expected for the students to get into disputes right off the bat. But she assured herself that things would turn out spectacular.
Among the commotion, the Young Guards intervened immediately.
Trying to break off the crowd in the hallways, the students pushed the group to the corner. They yelled, stomped their feet, and clashed against the Young Guards. The president of the high school section steered himself to the bulletin board; he got his eyes close to the documents.
Then, the president wailed and fumed. From the red seal alone, he said that he could never fathom this being exposed out in the open. He fainted, and his colleagues escorted him off for first aid. The students continued their clamors. Outside, a battalion of the Holy Army, the ones from the northern gate, arrived without invitation. Three senior officers, including the fat man, swerved their unit to the front door. The youth, noticing them upon their footsteps, surged through the doors and headed to the flagpole area.
The fat officer emerged from the battalion. His belly stuck out of his armor. He crooked his smile. “It must be a fine day youngins! All of you scram off now, for we are about to do a thorough inspection of your school to see if it’s safe or not! Don’t be shy, run along and go home to your mommies and daddies!”
Soon, the high school students encircled the soldiers, protecting the younger ones for the sake of their safety. They blazed their inferno in the air.
“What is the meaning of this?!” A girl with a ponytail said, she thrust her fist forward. “How dare you have the audacity to attack your own people?! Shame on you, you are the devils of the world! Get out of here!”
A boy next to her stepped up. “You were the ones who forced the Lama to agree with your evil plans! Do not clam up, speak the truth right now! We want to get to the bottom of this!”
The fat man snickered, then he broke his voice. “W-what are you talking about? Calm down kids, there’s nothing to worry about.” He nudged the shoulders of his skinny companion. “Nothing wrong at all, is that right lad? Haha!”
“Um sir, you do realize that they are angry at our presence,” the grunt said. “What is the matter with them anyway?”
“I don’t know! But we should get our troops inside!” Seeing that the other two officers were leading the battalion, the two men followed suit.
They couldn’t get themselves through the doors. The teenagers linked their arms and legs, and they scowled and hacked spitballs towards the grunts’ faces. The senior officers uttered countless warning, but the student body did not budge an inch. The kids that were outside the encirclement held each other, with frightful faces. Neha and Sachen rushed to the door of the stables and witnessed the standoff. Sachen couldn’t get her head around this situation developing into a frenzy; but she realized that it was best to leave herself out of this, as she had no power to stop the chaos.
After the refusal to surrender to the warning, the officers sneered.
They ordered for their men to summon their rifles. The soldiers brought their guns and targeted the teenagers right between the eyebrows.
Holding their fingers near the trigger, no hesitation came forth from the flare of their eyes. They seemed ready to fire upon the students.
Without anything to bear in comfort, Neha and Sachen could only watch. Sachen stood speechless, her lips convulsed. It came to her assumption that there would be bloodshed of the innocents, and it left her worried. As much as it came in a rush in her mind at such desperate time, she balked from the bid to intervene.
Sachen gulped. She clasped her hands behind Neha’s shoulders. Her friend’s face colored itself white.
As the battalion were about to open fire, the Young Guards swooped into the grounds and carved a narrow passage among the masses. They told the soldiers that they could go inside now, only if they withdraw their arms. The officers agreed, and the students bombarded them with insults as they walked through. The unit then went to the hallways.
Seeing the posters around them, they slapped each other’s chests and polluted the air with their laughs. The teenagers crowded the windows and banged their hands against the glass. The kids joined in too, jeering.
Upon the bulletin board, the officers set their eyes on the documents.
Nothing seemed to catch their attention at first. But in depth did they peruse through the whole papers. Their mouths hinged open. Red blotches stained their cheeks. Steam coming out of ears and nostrils, the officers set themselves back until they hit their heads on the wall behind them. The soldiers looked at the documents also; they reacted the same.
“W-what the hell?!” The chubby officer buried his nails on his neck, and choked on his saliva. “T-the documents w-were here the w-whole time?! I-I didn’t know that!”
“I told you to hold onto them,” the companion said.
The man cleared his throat. “I was looking for them for more than a day, ever since somebody broke into the shed! I don’t have an idea of who did it!” He held his hands together and cried out. One officer, a tall one, nabbed the inflated man’s collar and jabbed his rifle to his large stomach.
The tall man gritted his teeth. “What in God’s name is this? You sir, were supposed to be responsible for holding the papers! And they happened to make their way to this school, out of all places?! Wait a minute… you and your scrawny friend there were drunk the day that the documents went missing. Perhaps that you sneaked them into that jelly grease among the crevices of your stomach, and you purposely sent the papers flying all the way here! And just maybe, when you were intoxicated and full of yourself, you went into the shed and took a piss, along with your little buddy!” His eyes kindled, white smoke pillared from his nostrils.
“What?! I swear, I didn’t take them with me!” the overweight man said, he bawled with tears. I left them in the shed, and I once swore that I would retrieve and bring them back to the northern gates, so that we can implement the authorization! I did not do anything, not at all!”
“Lies… all lies huh? As typical of you.” The senior swiveled his gun along the layers of fat of the man. “One click from this, and your remains will become a beach.”
“No please! Anything but this! Oh!” The officer bowed down and kissed the person’s feet, and he begged for mercy. A single shot could guarantee a bloodbath, something that the students wouldn’t bear to see.
The next thing that occurred, somebody from one of the classrooms traipsed her way to the battalion. Wheezing, Ms. Laozina confronted them. Her eyes glared, and she scrunched her eyebrows.
“What is going on? Who the hell are you people? I demand an explanation!”
The tall guy replied, “I don’t know. But you can ask this piece of lard right here. Apparently, he knows everything.”
“Oh?” Ms. Laozina stomped the overweight man’s belly and smacked him in the face. “Give me an answer! Right now!”
“Um, I… ah!” With his face cold, he screamed and rolled around on the floor. The officers and soldiers, including his companion, took a great deal of their guffaw onto the man’s plight. As the teacher started to pester him on questions, he locked his mouth shut.
The tall officer squinted. “I guess we are caught. There’s no use bottling it. But the part where we supposedly intimidated the Lama… that cannot be anymore false.”
The battalion faltered to the wall. They then complained that their unit had walked all the way here for an inspection, only for the students to contest and interrupt them. All of that, and they were about to break down. Now with the school realizing their plans, along with the truth behind the first raid, the loss compelled them to fall back and retire.
Could they carry such shame from here?
Thanks to the setback, the troops threw punches and kicks at each other. Ms. Laozina and the other teachers repelled them out of the hallways, and the battalion returned outside, still in a fight. Pulling armor, battering their chests with their guns, and lunging at their shoulders, they lost their attention to the students.
The teenagers and the little ones together, they attacked the soldiers with all their might. Even though they lacked protection, the student body were able to strike back. The kids chucked stones and sticks upon the grunts, while the teenagers jostled at the officers. The teachers and the Young Guards could not break them away; they staggered to the side.
While it transpired, Neha and Sachen marveled at the chaos. Neha squealed, she closed her eyes to not witness the horror. For Sachen, she jumped and giggled.
“You should see this!” Sachen said. “Because of you, we have caused total anarchy, although this is not what I am expecting. At least we got something out of this.”
“Y-you should have known earlier… but it can’t be helped,” replied Neha.
“Now our classmates and upperclassmen know about the truth, nothing else matters for today. More importantly, I can’t believe that these soldiers were the ones who took part in the first attack… such fiends they are! How could they attack us all the sudden on that rainy day? Oh the misery! At least with this chaos, the situation might be able to prevent another attack from happening again.”
Neha nodded. She opened her eyes. “That’s good. I feel a little bit safe because of those papers. Thanks.”
“No problem!” Sachen saw the overweight officer wallowing in his tears. “Haha, look at that guy! He is literally going to pass out!” She laughed more before she came to a lull. “So what are we going to do now?”
“How about we stay here for a little bit, so that we can see what is going to transpire-”
Neha’s voice inundated in the air. Her shoulder slumped. Just as Sachen was about to bring herself into enjoyment again, she hushed her friend. Sachen glossed her gaze at the school gates. Upon seeing someone coming forth, her heart dropped to her stomach. No time could be any worse than this. The person plowed through the crowd and scampered to the other end of the school. Sachen froze like a statue.
Screams and whimpers, she could not eject them through her throat. In a hooded robe where it held long, black hair, and with eyes that soon stabbed the girls, the person came up to them in a blink of an eye. A grin materialized. Neha crouched and covered her head. Sachen shook herself. It was too late to run away.
The individual in the robe plucked the two of them by the back of their collars, and dragged them away from the mass. They struggled to slip off. Neha choked, and in pain, she flailed her entire body. Sachen grinded her head against the person’s lower back, but the latter only pulled more the grip on her collar. She also tried to liberate herself again, by dropping her lower weight to the ground – but that failed.
Before they could question anything, the person transported them to the streets and pushed them into an alleyway across from the school.
Neha and Sachen plummeted, they grazed their skin. As they recollected their breaths, the person lifted the hood.