Band-Aids and Boo-Boos

Skipping ahead two….four….six….eight years, the children are now beyond the years of their first words, first steps and…well…other necessary accomplishments that all babies go through. Perhaps their memories of such years can be shared another time. But for now, the next important event occurs in early spring, when all planters can but wait patiently for their trees to grow; tending to the orchards' enrichment and daily care.

xXx

'Ripples forming on the surface of the river as dragonflies bounce along, engaged in some game of tag'
'Busy bees humming peacefully as they go about their work collecting pollen'
'Birds singing sweetly, decorating the trees of the orchard with dots of color'
'So many sounds…'
'All strung together on the back of a soft breeze blowing off the seawaters'

Sora closed her eyes, listening to all the serene sounds of the orchard around her; seemingly unaware of the person trying to sneak up on her. "Naoki…" Sora frowned, not bothering to open her eyes, "you know, it is pointless for you to try sneaking up on me." The person in question froze in place for a moment, before taking the last couple of steps and sitting next to his sister. Naoki refrained from responding to Sora's comment, instead he merely sat there quietly and played with the green blades of grass at his feet. A few more moments of silence passed before Naoki decided to speak,

"What are you doing?" Instead of sounding irritated in any way by the interruption, Sora responded in a rather matter of fact tone,

"Listening."

"To what?"

"Everything."

"Oh…" Naoki looked over at his sister, and noted how she was bathed in the warm glow of sunshine that managed to find its way through the tangled leaves of the tree they were sitting under. He smiled, some people in the town still found it hard to believe that the two of them were twins, insisting that it was only their unnatural ability to finish each other's sentences that made it seem possible. Which was not hard to believe considering they did not look that much alike, however, the two of them always shared a keen understanding of how the other felt or what the other was thinking. Their mother Nori had asked them about it a few times, more out of motherly curiosity; but gave up on trying to figure out the science behind it since both Sora and Naoki could not provide her with any answers themselves. Naoki shifted his gaze from Sora and out onto the gently moving river, closing his eyes he decided to join his sister in her meditation instead of making any more efforts towards conversation. Apparently, Sora had a different plan,

"Hey Naoki…"

"Hmm"

"Have you ever thought about what it would be like to go out to sea…I mean actually leave home and the orchard to see what else is out there?" Naoki had to admit, he was not expecting this. He knew Sora enjoyed listening to the sailors' tales whenever they made port in Cornibus's harbor as much as he did, but he did not realize she had put this much thought into any of them.

"No…not really. I mean, I enjoy the sailor's tales for what they are…but I do not see myself going off on any adventures like what the sailors talk about." Naoki chanced opening one eye and to peek at Sora's expression; sufficed to say, he was sorely disappointed when her face gave nothing away. "Why do you ask?" Sora visibly took a deep breath before answering,

"Curiosity mostly…" Naoki prompted her to say more when she did not continue,

"and…?"

"Well, I do not think I could do it…I love our island and our home too much to just up and leave it." Sora finally opened her eyes and just stared at the river, "I suppose that could change with time, but…but I just do not understand how they can just leave everything behind to go on some unknown adventure out at sea." Naoki followed Sora's gaze, not sure how to respond.

"Mostly it's because they have to follow a so-called 'calling to the sea'." Both Sora and Noaki whipped around, surprised that they did not hear their father's approach. "the 'calling' is as mysterious as the sea itself, so no one can be sure how or why it only calls to certain people." Kozue smiled and ruffled both of his children's hair, much to their feigned annoyance.

"Have you ever been called to the sea dad?" Noaki asked out of curiosity.

"Nope, I was called to the sky! Just like my father, and his father before him," Kozue mocked puffing his chest out and sticking his nose high in the air, with his balled fists resting on his hips. Both Sora and Naoki giggled, although they knew, truthfully, their father was very proud of his flying inventions. Smiling Kozue looked back down at his giggly children, "Nori said lunch would be ready soon, I can imagine you two must be just as hungry as I am by now." Sora and Naoki both scrambled to their feet at the mention of food,

"Last one there is a rotten apple!" All three of them took off running toward the house.

Nori stepped out onto the porch and smiled; shaking her head at the sight of both children yelling at their father about cheating. Kozue awkwardly made his way to the porch with Sora draped over one shoulder while balancing Naoki on the opposite hip. "I caught a couple of extra squirrels over by the river," Kozue said with a mischievous hint to his voice, "maybe we can cook them up for dinner!" Sora and Noaki both protested, saying they were not squirrels and therefore could not be eaten.

"I think you are all pretty squirrely, if you ask me," Nori said with amusement. "Good thing I made some peanut-butter and jam sandwiches for lunch…extra nutty!" The whole family laughed as they made their way into the kitchen, and sat down to eat lunch together.

XxX

After eating lunch, Kozue announced that he was going to head into town in order to buy food at the local market and asked the children if they might like to join him. They respectfully declined, claiming that they were excited to have their next lesson with Nori on medicinal plants and first aid. And as such, they spent the next couple hours listening and taking notes about each of the new plants that Nori introduced to them. Nori took great care to explain, in detail, all of the plants and their known uses. Following the lecture, Nori began what she liked to called the 'hands-on' part of their education; showing both Sora and Naoki several first aid procedures for emergencies, both with and without the use of any medicinal plants. Nori found that teaching the children in this manner seemed to solidify whatever they learned during her 'lectures.' She was not surprised when they excelled at absorbing all of the material and were capable of performing it well, despite their age. Instead of questioning their unnatural aptitude, Nori was content to continue teaching them until there was nothing more that they could possibly learn from her.

"First step if you find someone that is injured with a cut or gash of any kind, is to immediately attempt to control any bleeding. Using cloth material or cotton, you put gentle, but firm, pressure on the open wound. This prompts the blood to start clotting," Nori motioned putting pressure on her arm as an example. "If the bleeding has not slowed or ceased after about 15-20 minutes, then the injury is serious and requires immediate attention. In such a case, it is helpful to use medicinal plants that contain properties that will stop bleeding." Nori reached for two of the plants that she had introduced to them during the lecture, "these two plants grow wildly." Nori slowly peeled off their leaves, "you gently peel off their leaves and layer them over the surface of the wound, while still keeping pressure on the wound site. This should buy you enough time to either find a doctor or, in the case of being far from civilization, suture up the opening of the wound." From there Nori showed them three different suture patterns on a rolled piece of leather with a slit running down the middle, while providing illustrative examples of when each suture pattern might be used.
"That will be enough lessons for today," Nori handed them each a rolled piece of leather identical to the one she used as an example while teaching. "Practice doing the sutures for yourself on these, and then I'll have you show me an example of each before bedtime tonight." Sora and Naoki gladly took the pieces of rolled leather and began mimicking their mother's suture patterns, Nori smiled as she began to pick up the plant material used during the lesson. 'Sometimes I forget how truly blessed I am to have these children…'

Sora and Noaki worked on their suture patterns until they both had successfully performed each of the patterns perfectly at least three times. Sora had always noticed that Naoki was much more passionate when it came to learning about the medicinal plants and first aid; and quickly found that he was much quicker when it came to performing the skills as well. But this did nothing to damper Sora's spirits, she had her own passion; Sora thoroughly enjoyed learning about the different creatures that inhabited Volantia, and what made each of them unique. Secretly, she kept a private journal dedicated to her observations and research on each of the creatures that she encountered—ranging from ordinary to extraordinary. She also used self-taught drawing techniques from library books, to create life-like sketches of the creatures and add them to her journal. Sora's drawing ability had made appreciable improvements for only being eight years old, however the sketches were still far from what one would call 'spitting images'of the real thing(s).

After putting away the suture materials from the earlier lesson, Sora pulled out some of her sketches and fanned them across that floor. 'What animal to draw next…' Sora looked around the greenery of their home, trying to find some sort of inspiration for her next sketch, when something caught her eye. However, Sora did not show any sign of excitement, instead a look of unease masked her features.

Naoki knew that his sister love drawing sketches, he was among the few individuals that Sora trusted to show some of her sketches too. She was remarkably talented; maybe not perfect, but far better at drawing sketches than the average person. Once Sora had turned her back to him, Naoki silently made his way over to where the fanned sketches lie on the floor; he audibly gasped at the detail of some of the drawings. "Sora these pictures are amazing," he reached down to pick one up of a dragonfly. "I may have gotten the talent for medicine, but you definitely got the talent for drawing!" When Sora did not respond, Naoki looked over at her and sensed his sister's unease "Sora? What's wrong?" Without explanation Sora took off at a dead sprint toward one of the large trees that lined the river bed. Upon reaching the tree, Sora nimbly made her way to the top branches; from there she inched toward the end of one of the thicker tree limbs, staring intently at the moving water of the river. Unknown to Naoki, Sora had noticed something odd floating on the river's current when she was searching for the inspiration for her next sketch. Now from her vantage point in the tree, Sora could make out the silhouette of a person being buoyed by a small log.

"Nao! Grab some rope, quick…there is a person out in river!" Without questioning his sister's instruction, Naoki grabbed the longest coil of rope he could find and hurried to where Sora was now standing at the edge of the river. Upon reaching Sora, Naoki hesitated,

"Are you sure you want to do this…it is a strong current." Naoki could not hide the concern in his voice, "maybe I…"

"I'll be just fine, do not worry." Sora took one end of the rope and began tying it around her waist, "besides, I need you here, on the shore, so you can pull us back in once the rope is secure." Finished with tying the rope, Sora looked up with a determined look in her eyes. Naoki nodded, indicating that he was ready,

"Whatever happens…make sure you do not let go of the end of this rope." With that Sora dove into the river and began swimming diagonally toward the individual afloat on a log. Perhaps the sight of Sora swimming toward it either excited or scared the individual, because the individual suddenly began to desperately struggle against the river's current. However, the sudden movement cause the individual to lose their grip in the sodden log and slip beneath the surface of the water. Taking a couple more swift strokes and a deep breath, Sora dove underwater where the individual disappeared. Meanwhile, Naoki held a tight grip on the rope as Sora had made her way out into the middle of the river. Folks in town always use to tell the children stories about terrifying beasts that lived hidden in the river's depths. Naoki had never believed such stories before, but now he was not so sure…

Once Naoki lost sight of Sora beneath the surface of the water, he unconsciously held his breath; as if by doing so would help Sora catch the individual and return to the surface before running out of breath. Silently he prayed for Sora to surface soon, carefully watching the area where both had disappeared. Suddenly Sora reappeared, gasping for air; Noaki could see a motionless figure draped over one of Sora's shoulders. Upon feeling a tug on the rope that was the signal to reel them in, Naoki began steadily pulling the rope so as not to lose his grip. Sora attempted to help by propelling herself and the unconscious individual forward with swift strokes using her right arm. By the time the two individuals reached the shore, both Sora and Naoki were exhausted from fighting against the strong current of the river. Huffing, Naoki helped drag the unconscious individual onto the grass away from the water's edge; now that he got a chance to look carefully at the person, Noaki was surprised to see that it was a young boy that they had saved. Without missing a beat, Naoki began applying manual respiration to the boy and instructed Sora to chafe the boy's wrists in an effort to improve the boy's circulation and possibly revive him.

"His color is returning," Sora commented. "I'm going to grab blankets and the first aid kit," Naoki nodded and continued to provide manual respiration. The boy had expelled most of the water from his lungs and was beginning to breath with less difficulty. Upon returning, Sora began to dry the boy off while Naoki checked the boy for any injuries.

"He is pretty banged up, I do not think these cuts and bruises are just from floating down river." Sora felt the concern emanating from her brother; they were both thinking the same thing, 'this boy was attacked!'

"We can attempt to clean and bandage the minor cuts, as for the deeper ones…" Sora did not have a chance to finish. Suddenly the young boy began to thrash about, while seemingly still unconscious; Naoki held down the boy's arms in an attempt to prevent the boy from further injuring himself. Sora cradled the boy's head and began speaking to him in a quiet voice, "easy…easy! My brother and I are here to help you…" the boy seemed to calm down slightly. "I need you to relax…if you keep wiggling it will make it very hard for us to bandage your wounds. You are already very weak…please calm down." The boy slowly began to calm down—whether it was because of Sora's encouragement or simply because of exhaustion, Naoki and Sora did not wait to find out. Sora gathered water from the river and began washing and drying the minor cuts along the boy's arms, legs and face. Naoki followed by applying one of the salves their mother had prepared and kept stored in the first aid kit; it worked to reduce pain and swelling, while at the same time promoting healing.

"Sora, you can work on bandaging the cuts on his left side, I'll work on the right." Sora nodded and began wrapping the bandage material around almost the full length of the boy's left arm. Once they both finished, Naoki laid a blanket over the top of the boy—since they were working in the sunlight, the boy's clothes had for the most part dried.

"I'm worried about this gash," Sora again cradled the boy's head on her lap and motioned to the gash that extended from the boy's forehead and down over his right eye. "I think this one may need to be sutured closed, because it is so deep…" Naoki knew what his sister was thinking, but he did not feel confident enough to perform any of the suture patterns that Nori had taught them on an actual person just yet.

"Sora…I…"

"We do not have to suture it right away, remember?" Sora smiled at Naoki, understanding that he did not feel comfortable attempting to suture the gash. "We can prevent bleeding by using the leaves from that yarrow plant that mum showed us." Naoki nodded, returning Sora's smile, he was grateful that she understood without him having to explain. Carefully Naoki peeled the leaves off the plant, soaked them in the water and then placed them over the wound on the boy's head. Sora helped by lifting the boy's head as Naoki applied the bandage, creating several layers to prevent the bandage from just slipping off. Satisfied with their work, Sora and Naoki lifted the boy onto a blanket and slowly lugged him up into the greenhouse.

"He is breathing a lot deeper, and his color seems to have returned. If you stay here with him, I will run and get mum from the orchard." With that Naoki took off in search of Nori. Sora used a stack of books to lift the boy's head and sat down next to him, watching for any signs of waking-up or struggle. Now that she had an opportunity to really look at the boy, she noticed he had bright orangish-yellow hair that fanned out almost like flames on his head. Sora had tried to pull back the hair that covered the boy's face, however, it stubbornly fell back into place. The boy had a long oval-shaped face, with a strong chin that sat at the base of his visible jaw line. As for the color of the boy's eyes…well, that was the only thing Sora was still waiting to see.
'When is this boy going to wake up?
Who is he…and what happened to him?'