She shuffled the papers on her desk, placing them into a neat stack for tomorrow. It had been a busy week, and she wasn't sure whether she should feel relieved or not. Rising from her chair, she turned to the large window behind her desk. The sun was finishing setting, and giving off its last bit of brilliant colors for the evening. As she stared, she caught sight of something. It twinkled for a brief moment before disappearing. She blinked. It couldn't have been…
Shaking her head, she grinned at her foolishness. This was a sure sign that she'd been working too late. Ah, Paraietta would surely scold her if she found out. She turned away from the window and back to her desk. That day's newspaper rested on the corner of the desk, folded over. She'd not read it. "Peace Talks Yield Fruit" was the large headline.
Rodoreamon wasn't sure how much truth could be read from the newspaper. True to media, it had continued to feed less than truthful news throughout the rest of the war. It had never mentioned the incident at the orphanage, or the cleanup done afterwards. It was as though that particular piece of history never existed, had never happened.
Two years. It'd been over two years since that incident. At times, it seemed as though the war would never end. Their army had made great advances and then suffered great losses. Men with giant toys that tried to outdo each other… and gained very little in the end. It was a continuous cycle. She was unsure of how long the peace would last this time around. Most likely, a few years at most.
At least this time Simulacrum had come out somewhat better than before. Some of the lost territory from the previous war was restored by Plumbum for loyalty, but not much. The talks had taken a large amount of time talking over this particular part of the treaty. Argentum had wanted the Simoun in exchange, but Plumbum would not hand over the sacred craft. They knew how precious the Simoun were.
That one point could very well be why the peace treaty wouldn't last for long. Rodoreamon suspected that Argentum would lie low for a few years to rebuild and to strategize before attempting once again to take the craft to their country. They would not be satisfied until they could utilize the Simoun and save the country that they had poisoned with pollution. Failure to do so only frustrated and encouraged them even more.
Rodoreamon turned off the lights in her office and left for the evening. She came across one of the servants on her way down the hall. He stopped when he spotted her, an envelope in hand.
"This just came for you, ma'am. I thought you'd want to see it as soon as possible." He handed over the envelope.
Taking it, Rodoreamon flipped it over. It was addressed to her by her name, rather than her title, and in very familiar handwriting. She smiled as she carefully removed the seal and pulled the letter out from within. As she read the short note, she smiled. She had been expecting to hear of this for quite some time, and was glad to finally read of it happening.
It wasn't long before she'd returned to her office and written a response in return. This was a cause for celebration, and she would take part, no question asked. As she sealed the envelope, she decided she would help contribute as well. A few special goods would do well after a period of war.
"Please make sure this is sent back immediately," she instructed one of her messengers. "I want to make sure that it is received as soon as possible."
"As you wish," replied the messenger, tilting his hat to her. She smiled as she watched him go.
At the orphanage, Paraietta felt as though she was going to go crazy. She had never expected something of this manner to cause such a commotion, but then she had clearly underestimated the children in her care. She had expected calm acknowledgement and smiles, not all out jumping up and down and shouting in joy.
Sighing and counting softly to herself, she collected her patience. After reaching five, she looked up, a cheerful smile on her face. She clapped loudly three times. "If you can hear my voice, please touch your lips," she instructed.
One by one, the children placed their fingers to their lips. Many copied after seeing their neighbors' reactions. Soon, there was silence in the room. "Now, we have a lot to do to prepare for this. I know you're all excited, but we can't do anything if you're not going to listen."
She paused, watching for the children's reactions. They leaned forward on their knees. She then looked to the nurse maids in the back of the room and nodded to them. "We'll be splitting into groups. Some of you will help with decorations, and the rest of you will help with making snacks."
"Do we get to pick?" asked one of the older girls in the front.
"We've already put you into groups, so there's no picking."
"Aww, but am I with my friends?"
Paraietta winked. "You'll see when you get your group. Now, I expect everyone to work their hardest. It's going to take a lot of work for everything to come together, but I know we can all do it and be ready for tomorrow. Okay?"
"Okay!" shouted the children in reply.
"Good. Now, the nurse maids will come and put you into your groups. I'll be watching as all of you work."
She stepped aside as one by one the nurse maids came forward and called the names of their groups. Each group either headed for the classrooms or the kitchens. She smiled as the children exited the dining hall, knowing that this would be a wonderful home coming.
"Am I late?" called a voice from the doorway.
Spinning quickly, she looked to see if she had heard correctly. She nearly lost her balance doing so.
"Rodoreamon! I wasn't expecting you today."
"I had to come help after I read your note. It seems I estimated my arrival just right. I also brought a wagon of supplies. You were planning for a party, correct?"
"We were, but we didn't have much. Surely you didn't—"
Rodoreamon held up a hand, cutting her off. "I used some of my own money. Do you think the delegates would have given me funding for something such as this?"
"You're sure you couldn't somehow convince them?" She laughed when Rodoreamon merely put her hands on her hips. She couldn't resist teasing the younger woman.
"I think you were going to show me where the supplies should be unloaded," remarked Rodoreamon. She turned around and said nothing more, leaving a laughing Paraietta to catch up to her.
As the train pulled into the station, Laenif shifted his eyes toward the window. It was just after eight in the morning. Inside, he was as giddy as a child, but on the outside, he appeared calm and collected. Two years. It'd been two years since he'd been on this platform. He rose from his seat, and reached for his rucksack. The last time he'd rode the train, he'd left on the military car. Now, he was just another passenger looking to head home.
He shuffled the bag until it sat snugly on his shoulders, which weren't as small as they were when he left. Perhaps the hardest part of training had been going through the process of transitioning during that time. He'd dealt not only with his voice changing, but his physical features as well. As a result, he'd suffered some unpleasant teasing. Once he'd gotten past the majority of the transitioning, he'd found that things were easier. He was taller, more muscular, and had just a bit of stubble on his chin.
Inside though, he was still the same Laenif that had left. It was hidden well, but still there. He wondered what had happened at the orphanage since he'd left. He had spent so much of the past two years in the field that he didn't have a way to mail a letter home. It hadn't been until the end of the first year that he'd been able to keep in touch.
Even then, the letters back and forth had been short and to the point. At times, he had downright lied about what he saw in the field. The houses destroyed, lives lost, children crying… There had even been a point when he wasn't sure what the war was about any more. The day in the field when his unit had received the news of the cease fire had been a wonderful day. A few weeks later, news of the war's end reached them. They were finally allowed to go home.
Stepping off the train was refreshing. Laenif felt as though his step were light. He decided he would walk to the orphanage instead of finding a wagon that could take him the few miles out of town. He was expected, but he had told Paraietta that he would arrive in the afternoon. He'd made better time on the train than he'd originally thought, and the weather was pleasant. His boots kicked up small puffs of dust as he headed down the all too familiar road.
Paraietta looked up from the documents she'd been reviewing with Rodoreamon as one of the children burst through the door. She clutched a teddy bear, her curly brown hair tied in pigtails. She had had no qualms about throwing the door opening, much to the dismay of the nursemaid behind her.
"Ginesia, you were supposed to knock first!" scolded the nursemaid gently.
"But this is important news!" protested Ginesia.
"What is it, Ginesia?" asked Paraietta, chuckling. She knew that the girl was apt to forgo manners when she was excited about something.
"Laenif's coming down the road! I spotted him first!" She puffed out her chest.
"What? He wasn't expected until this afternoon. He's early."
"You go meet him, Paraietta. I will speak to the cook in the kitchen. It will work out." Rodoreamon stood, putting the documents back into the envelope they had come from.
"I'll trust you then." She turned to the nursemaid. "Gather all the children into the main yard. I know they don't want to miss this.
The nursemaid bowed. "Yes ma'am. Come on, Ginesia. Let's go make sure everyone gets outside."
Rodoreamon made it outside just as she saw Laenif not to far from the main gate. She slipped in beside Paraietta, and smiled. She could see that Laenif had changed quite a bit since she'd last seen him. He was grinning as he headed toward the gate in his army fatigues, a bag slung over his shoulder. It reminded her of how she had felt when she had returned home after being dismissed as a Sibylla. She knew that nothing could replace the feeling of knowing you were home.
The children were quick to rush toward Laenif, and he had to work to regain proper balance, which was a hard task when three tried to latch on to him. He was pulled this way and that, but eventually knelt to their level and pulled them into a large hug. Every time he tried to get up, he was weighted down by yet another of the girls.
They let him up when they saw Paraietta stepping forward. "Welcome home, Laenif. It's so good to see you again." She pulled the tall young man into a hug. She could not describe the feeling inside her heart at that moment. She only knew that it must be what a mother felt like when their child returned from war.
"I'm sorry to be early. I wanted to come home and see everyone as soon as I could," apologized Laenif as he stepped away.
"It's all right. We've taken care of everything," Rodoreamon said as she stepped forward.
"Home Secretary… I didn't think you'd be here…."
"I wouldn't miss something like this. If you'll come inside, the children have worked hard on a surprise for you."
Laenif followed the two women, the children crowded around him. It was a task to even fit into the door, but he managed to fit without banging any of their heads, arms, or legs. He was led to the dining hall, and was greeted by the sight of hand crafted pictures and decorations, as well as the delicious smells of a variety of foods he hadn't been privileged to have since he first left.
"Sit with me!"
It took Rodoreamon and Paraietta quite some time to get the children settled and served. All of them wanted to sit at the same table as Laenif. Eventually, Paraietta suggested that he rotate to the tables. This satisfied the children and helped them to settle down quickly.
Paraietta and Rodoreamon watched the children from afar as they chattered happily and shouted questions to Laenif. He was star of the moment, and told stories to the children as they ate their meal. "It's quite a sight, isn't it?" asked Rodoreamon softly, noticing Paraietta watching the children and Laenif more than she was eating.
"It is…I just wonder how long it will last." She smiled sadly, and then looked to Rodoreamon. "I'm sorry. I should be happy, but after seeing the same thing happen to us before…well…"
Rodoreamon patted the top of Paraietta's hand. "Unfortunately, it is the way things work. We don't know if this peace will last or not. All we can do is enjoy it while it does and hope that our future turns out differently than our past has."
"I suppose you're right."
"I'd like to think so," answered Rodoreamon with a smile. "We have the children here at the orphanage to help, and Tempus Spatium watching over us. Perhaps, as before, he will give us divine blessing."
The two women continued their meal as the celebration lasted well into the afternoon before many of the children tuckered out. The festivities gave hope to those there that the future would be peaceful and brighter. They believed and hoped that the madness of war would not continue to ravage their homeland and their people, and they would pass this belief on in their own ways. To believe was to be blessed, a lesson never to be forgotten.
Now that we're finally to the end, I'm not sure what to really say. This project was a labor of love that took a lot longer than I thought it would. I hope that I was able to tell a bit of a post-series tale that you enjoyed. One of my main goals was to have a post-series fic that was completed and a longshot. It was interesting to learn the complexities of characters I didn't usually write, as well as try my hand with an original character. For a first attempt at OC, I think I did a decent job. I know there was a point in my planning stages for this fic where that OC would have been more Mary Sue than I would have liked. I really tried to stay away from that, and simply use the OC tale within the story alongside the main plot.
Sadly, I cannot forsee myself doing anymore Simoun longshots for the time being. There is just too much going on in my life, and finishing this story made me remember how much work goes into putting something like this together. I hope that you've enjoyed my story, and will leave feedback if you can. Until next time!