Ich_hatt' eine Kameraden

=The loss is four years past, but still felt keenly=

Not many people visited this part of the hill, which suited the eight gathered there at the moment just fine. The group, apparently composed of five adults and three children, was walking slowly towards one side of a circular area. Light glinted off the brass finish of a trumpet held by one of the adults, a white-haired man, as well as a small drum held by a redheaded child who wore her locks in twin braids.

The group reached the edge of the area and knelt before a mound of snow with something grey sticking out from the top, clearing off the snow to reveal a grave marker. There was a painting of a white-haired, red-eyed woman on it and engraved below the painting were the words:

"In loving memory: "Reinforce"

The group took off their caps, revealing that the trumpeteer had wolf ears, and stood silent before the marker for a minute. When the time was up, the redhead child started playing the drum, with the wolfman joining in shortly after before the others started singing.

"Ich hatt' eine Kameraden..."

After they had finished singing, one of the children, a blonde with emerald eyes, asked, "Father, what does all this mean?"

Yuuno Scrya looked at his daughter and sniffed. The eyes and hair were his, but the rest of the face... "Difen, how much do you remember of your mother?"

"Umm... She was pretty and kind and soft and warm?"

Yuuno smiled slightly. For any other child it would have been difficult if not impossible to remember anything of being less than a year old, but Difen and her twin were not exactly normal.

"Father, is... is..."

Yuuno turned to Difen's fraternal twin, who was shaking despite being bundled up in warm clothing. Pulling him into a hug, Yuuno asked, "What's wrong, Aidon?"

"I-i-is that Mother's?" He said, pointing at the grave marker.

Yuuno felt the blood drain from his face as Aidon voiced another of his unusually accurate perceptions.

When he got no reply, Aidon asked a second time.

The question had not gone unheard by the others, who looked on with varying degrees of surprise.

"Aid, it... it's not true, is it? Father?" Difen asked.

Yuuno looked from one child to another, eyes wide, face twitching and not answering.

Aidon ran to Yuuno and started beating on him with little fists. "T-tell me it's not true, Father! Tell me... Tell t-that's not Mother's! Tell me!" Difen joined her brother shortly, clinging to her father's legs and crying.

Yuuno stared mutely into the distance for a while, before sinking to his knees and burying his face in his gloved hands. Loud sobs could be heard. How do you explain to children not even five what death was? The others encircled his children and him at a respectful distance, saying nothing. "Y-yes..." He finally said. "It is." He knelt mutely and waited as the water works continued to flow.

Eventually, Aidon calmed down enough to ask, "Why did Mother die?"

Yuuno wiped the tears off his son's face and tried to come up with an explanation that he could understand. How was one to explain the indiscretion responsible? "We... We had saved your mother from one danger, but there was another that we couldn't do anything about." He mentally cursed the memory of the defence programme. "So... your mother and I... we conceived you." He knew that was a gross simplification, that it did no justice to how the desires of a certain current absentee factored into matters.

"And then?" Difen asked.

"Rein... Your mother managed to hold on long enough to carry the two of you to term." With a sad smile, Yuuno recalled Reinforce's joy at being able to hold the twins in her arms. "She also managed to wean both of you off. However, after that... After that..."

"Yes, Father?" Both asked together.

"We... we couldn't do anything to hold off the evil any longer." He recalled how Reinforce had collapsed and went into convulsions one day, how this had marked the defence programme starting to re-manifest. The beast was tied to her, not transmittable to the children, but that still meant that she had to go.

"So... Mother is dead?"

Yuuno looked down at the city in the distance and held his head in his hands. To be technical, Reinforce was not dead, but sealed away as she was to hold off the defence programme, there was no practical difference. "You... You could say so."

"Th-there's nothing we can do?"

Yuuno gave it a bit of thought, but then rejected it. If centuries of efforts thus far had come up with no way of permanently defeating it, what hope did this generation have of doing so? "No... I'm sorry." He steeled himself for the bawling, which came as expected, let them cry and shed tears of his own too. Better to let them vent than let the repressed thoughts leave hidden scars on their psyches. "We can't do anything for her, but we can live well, you can grow up to be the good people she would have wanted you to be. That's the best way to honour her and she'll be happy if she looks down on us from wherever she is now." He rubbed their backs and held them close until they stopped crying.

"O-okay."

Yuuno pat both of them on their heads. "Let's go home."

The children turned to the grave marker and waved. "Goodbye, Mother! We'll see you again next year!" They then walked over to two of the adults and took their hands. "Aunt Fate, Aunt Signum, carry us please?"

After the two took the children on their shoulders, the whole group made silent farewells to the marker, then turned and walked away.

The snow fell on.