This story is set in Wars World of Advance Wars, a month after the events of Dual Strike, where Van Bolt and his Bolt Guard used a giant crystal structure called a Black Obelisk to suck the energy from Wars World to use for his own selfish needs.
[Author's Note: It's been awhile since I played the older games, so a few of the details may be off. Specifically I can't recall how much damage was done to Yellow Comet during the events of the second game. Descriptions on the wiki are slim, and I'm in the midst of replaying the older games now, but this story is bugging me too much to write to hold off on trying to get it down. If you spot any inaccuracies, feel free to point them out.]
The sun rising through the mountains cast a red and and orange tinge to the valley below the mountain palace. An elaborate shrine sat on a narrow peninsual in the middle of a crystal lake, it's silver waters calm, but for the flickering shadows dancing over it, cast by the forests of the opposite mountain. Meadows of jasmine and gardens of Cherry Blossoms surrounded it, only a few miles from the sprawling houses and farms of the city. A beautiful landscape were it not for the hollow ruined shell of the towering Black Cannon in the center of it.
Sonja snapped away from the window and back into her office. She was dressed in a green form-fitting military tunic and knee-length skirt, her black hair tied back in a braided ponytail that fell halfway down her back. Her rigid posture, hands clasped behind her back, gave a statuesque air of authority that transcended her young age.
"Oh, right, Lieutenant, go on." The officer looked more concerned than annoyed, as Sonja was not the type to daydream during a briefing. It was becoming a habit of late, however. A habit that needed addressing if she was to stay one of Yellow Comet's top COs... and eventually become its' empress.
"Our reports from Omega Land indicate that the wastelands created by the Black Obelisk have almost fully recovered."
"That's good news." She absently stared back out the balcony window in the direction of Omega Land, although the continent was too distant to see, even from the Mountain Palace's high vantage point. The resolution of the war with Von Bolt remained mostly unsolved. How was the Black Obelisk built? Were there more? Were Von Bolt and the Black Hole CO Hawke truly killed? Where had Von Bolt's entourage, the 'Bolt Guard,' disappeared to? And then there was the question of the land itself: had the land recovered naturally, or did it absorb the stolen energy released from Von Bolt's destroyed chair? Other answers existed, each more farfetched than the last. Jake's favorite theory so far had been that Hawke found a way to rejuvenate the land.
Ugh, Jake. The weight Sonja put on the newest Orange Star CO's theories was... low. Hawke had proven himself as a challenging foe, but more importantly he had proven himself a merciless one. Black Hole and it's CO's were responsible for thousands of lost lives, millions of destroyed homes. To Jake, an alliance of convenience necessitated by Von Bolt's betrayal absolved them of all of it. The idea that they should be given a pat on the back and enlisted into the Allied Nations was clinical insanity! She had said as much during Lash's tribunal. A tribunal that would not have happened, she was fairly sure, had General Olaf not been so vocal to decry Lash's personal destruction of his hometown. Yet Jake seemed to possess a truly remarkable ability to evoke psychosis in his fellow CO's. Sonja could only surmise that it centered on his unusual dialect. Subliminal messages, perhaps. Something to look into later.
But this was no time for idle musings. "I'm more concerned with how rebuilding efforts go locally, Lieutenant." Yellow Comet had been relatively untouched in the war with Von Bolt, but it was still feeling the effects of Sturm's prior invasion.
"Yes, Commander." He flipped through half the document before he got to Yellow Comet news. The turnover rate for her officers was higher than any other CO in the nation, so the few that remained were well aware of how... comprehensive... Sonja required her reports to be.
"Reconstruction goes fairly smoothly, the biggest bottleneck being how quickly we can remove the Black Pipes littering the landscape."
"What?" She moved over to her desk where there were several documents and maps layed out and slipped on a pair of thin-rimmed reading glasses. Several locations were marked red, indicating Black Pipe warehouse locations. She had ordered their commission specifically to streamline rebuilding efforts. "Has there been a problem moving them to the warehouses?"
"Oh, were you not informed, Commander?" He suddenly seemed to be anxious, sweat visibly beading on his brow.
"Informed of what?" Sonja did not like being the last one to hear about something, as her heated glare clearly illustrated.
"Emperor Kanbei ordered all Black Pipes to be dumped into the sea, rather than stored in the warehouses."
The Lieutenant took his leave of Sonja's office as expeditiously as one can while being pelted with everything not nailed down to the floor.
"...and then WHAM! The room shakes and only LIGHTNING GRIMM is still standing in that circle! Long story short, I was an Honorary Wars World Heavyweight Sumo Champion for a two months!"
"Lightning Grimm... who is that?"
"Who's Lightning...?" The circle-rimmed sunglasses Grimm always wore were far too tiny to mask the look of momentary confusion that set upon his brow as he looked upon his drinking partner. After a pause, he assaults the room with a deafening, "HAH! Hahahaha! Almost got me there, Sensei!"
Grimm gives Sensei a pat on the back so forceful it nearly knocks the goggles off the elderly Yellow Comet CO's face, then downs the remaining half of a huge bottle of sake. Sensei's only response is a confused smile as he repositions his leather headgear.
The pair turn from the bar, just catching a view of Sonja walking past the bar doorway. Gone was the air of collectedness, replaced by the temperament of a teenage girl who had just been stood up at the prom. She stopped long enough to peek into the room, her irritation so thick it had congealed into choking fumes that followed her down the hall. She saw the pair at the bar and demanded, "Have you seen my father?"
"Calm down there, Hummingbird, what's got you all riled up?" When Sonja was louder than him, Grimm knew something was amiss.
"Not now, Grimm." Her expression left no indication that she could be appeased. "Sensei, do you know where Emperor Kanbei is?"
"Kanbei... Kanbei..." Sensei scratched his chin, deep in thought. "Oh! That's right, I left him in the yard, cleaning up after marksmanship practice."
Her angered irritation gave way to a more concerned, frustrated irritation. Irritation was an art form to Sonja - as complex as any painting, with multiple shades of color and varying techniques. "Sensei, my father hasn't trained under you for years. In fact, you haven't personally trained anyYellow Comet soldiers for years."
"Oh, right... that means he's in..." he settled back into thought.
After a moment of quiet, Sonja asked again impatiently, "Sensei?"
"Huh? Oh, hello, Sonja. Did you need something?"
With an exasperated sigh, she turned and left the doorway, headed back down the hall. Loud cries of "Father!" reared up and diminished as she moved away. Grimm sat in his chair, barely suppressing a cackle.
"Haha! You old dog, that was some show you put on there!"
"Show? What kind of show? I like the ones where they dance around in wild costumes and swing swords."
Grimm shook his head, his laughter only getting deeper. He lifted up the huge empty bottle and waved it over the bar. "Bartender! Bring me another!"
Even though it was unlikely that her father was the one cleaning up, the Training Yard was a likely place to find him regardless. From just outside the palace, she could see that there was some kind of military rally occurring, gathered around a single speaker. As she approached the yard, it became clear that the booming voice did indeed belong to her father the emperor. She spared a single moment to mentally congratulate herself.
"Steel! Granite! Yellow Comet Soldiers! What do these all have in common?"
"THEY DO NOT YIELD!" responded an ocean of of soldiers, in dozens of square formations, arrayed before a single man, standing atop a tank painted a blinding yellow. Emperor Kanbei was the embodiment of the samurai, standing tall, his black cape billowing in the wind, somehow making the same garish yellow of his tunic inspiring instead of unsightly. He was the human incarnation of Yellow Comet - infinitely wise, infinitely pure - it made Sonja suddenly question whether his decision regarding the Black Pipes had been right, and that perhaps she was wrong.
And then she noticed that the scabbard at his hip was empty. He had forgotten his sword again.
As hotheaded as she was at the moment, she wasn't about to embarrass her father in front of the city's entire standing army. Frankly, nothing about shouting up at a man standing on a tank could end well. Instead she waited several minutes at the edge of the yard until Kanbei finally concluded the rally, giving command to a nearby colonel. She caught up to him as he started back towards the palace flanked by several other officers.
"Father, I need to speak to you." She was still incensed, but all the delays had at least helped her regain her countenance.
"Sonja!" She managed only a feeble 'eep!' before she was engulfed in a giant bear-hug. To say that she didn't expect it would be a lie, but her father's outrageous displays of affection were impossible to prepare for. He released her after a few moments of feeble struggling, her face flushed with embarrassment as she tried to straighten her tunic. The other officers, beacons of respect and propriety, did not so much as even crack a smile, something Sonja was infinitely grateful for... each time this happened.
"Father, please, I have some domestic matters to speak with you about."
Kanbei's face soured somewhat, as it usually did when she tried to speak to him about politics and administration. He waved. "You are my daughter, and are more than capable of handling such responsibilities on your own."
"I'm very glad to hear that, father," Irritation with a touch of sarcasm for a lighter, fluffier texture. "That is, that you trust me so much that you wouldn't overrule one of my orders without at least discussing it with me first."
"And I am glad that you are glad," he responded with a self-satisfied nod. He started walking again, but Sonja grabbed his shoulder.
"No, father, you did that! You told the reconstruction committees to dump the Black Pipes in the ocean!" The best well-laid, carefully constructed conversations were destroyed when the other person had no concept of subtlety.
Kanbei finally halted his trek back to the palace. "The ocean, yes," he nodded sagaciously. "The best place to dispose of those terrible Black Hole pipes."
"Father, there are a number of reasons to store them rather than dump them in the ocean - logistical, utility, not the least of which scientific. We still don't know what they're made of, why they're indestructible, why they disrupt aircraft that try to fly over them..." This line of argument never worked with her father, but she would be regret it if she didn't at least try.
Unsurprisingly, he merely waved her concerns off. He literally waved. "This is Yellow Comet! We do not put trust in mysterious foreign technologies. Besides, they reject the paint."
"Father, are we really abandoning an opportunity to revolutionize this empire's infrastructure because the technology isn't yellow?"
"Sonja..." he shook his head in disappointment. It was his turn to lecture. "This land's name is not arbitrary! What is the first thing you learned in school?"
Sonja sighed, realizing that this conversation was headed in a direction she simply couldn't argue out of. "Father, I'm not going to start reciting ritual..."
"Sonja!" Kanbei was prepared to delve straight into a long tirade when he recalled the other officers present. He stood up rigidly, turning to the handful of men and giving a stare that left nothing unclear about their dismissal. After mutual bows from both sides they departed, Kanbei keeping his gaze locked for several long moments after their departure. Sonja, in the meantime, stood outside of his gaze, her nerves frayed in a way she had not experienced in months.
"Sonja." When he turned around, the momentary flash of anger had given way to fatherly concern. "You treat ritual as if it was a punishment, as an ancient tradition that is out of place in a modern Yellow Comet."
"Father..." Sonja pleaded, trying to tell him that he was overreacting.
"No interrupting. It is more than the color, but the color is important. This Empire's color is of the Sun! The color reflected in our lakes, seen through our windows, reflected in our eyes, shining in all of our souls. By making our forces, our homes yellow, we show what we have built. What we have built. These Black Pipes were not built by our hands, were not placed by our hands. If they stay, what do they symbolize?"
Sonja found herself temporarily without anything to say. The line of Kanbei's mouth tightened and he walked a few paces past Sonja, leaving her a view of his back. She could feel some irritation building again, and was about to make a pointed comment about the overuse of dramatic pauses and dynamic poses when his shoulders slumped. He released a drawn-out sigh and turned back to her, his face a mix of emotions. "I forgot my sword."
A tidal wave of relief, affection and raw amusement gripped her, and she laughed aloud at the same time tears began welling up in her eyes. She didn't even notice herself clearing the distance between the two, burying her face in his shoulder. They stood there for at least a minute, Kanbei's arms wrapped around her, stroking the length of her hair, before he spoke.
"I was never a smart man." Kanbei began. Sonja tried to voice some objection but he silenced her with a finger to her lips. "Fortunately you take after your mother."
Sonja pulled back far enough just to see the smile that crossed her father's face - the same pained smile he displayed whenever thinking of her mother.
"And it's because of that you will make a much better CO, and a much better ruler than I. But you cannot let this -" he gave her head a good shake, "think it is more important than this -" he put his palm on the center of her chest. He gave her a small hug before letting her go. He took a moment to wipe away the tears from her left cheek. The Emperor of Yellow Comet cannot betray weakness, so when he turned away from her, it was not because similar tears were welling up in his own eyes, but because he had important business to take care of. At least that's what he would have said if pressed. Sonja knew better.
"Tomorrow I am holding a conference for all my advisors," he announced without looking back, increasing his pace towards the palace. "You'll be there, yes?"
"Of course, father," she said, still reeling from the unexpectedly emotional encounter.
"We will discuss, perhaps, keeping some of these pipes for research. And that is all on this subject."
She nodded weakly, mumbling a 'yes' when she realized he wasn't looking at her. As a child, Sonja had been spared no luxury, and was frequently inundated in attention and presents. But this small compromise was one of the greatest gifts he'd ever given her.