Chapter 63: True Love

(Marimo's POV) (January 8, 2002 Tuesday)

One week…

It has been a week since the battle of Tokyo City. A lot has happened since then but… yet I can hardly believe that it's been so long. The events that occurred there were so numerous that I find it hard to record all of them in my report. I can't even begin to count how many times when the lives of every Japanese citizen were at stake.

My hands still shake whenever I recall those moments. The XG weapon, the battle and the G-Bomb. So many things happened in just a short span of two days but the scar that was left by the rebel army leader, Ikaruga Takatsugu, was severe. It left a wound so deep that I doubt people will ever recover. He broke Japan physically and spiritually just like he planned it. With the lost of the Imperial Army High Command, and the royal family along with his majesty, the Emperor, the people seemed to be at a lost.

The destruction of Tokyo was shown on every form of media possible. Smoke and ruin was all that remained of that city and every citizen of this nation was there to see it firsthand. Everything that the people had accomplished… were engulfed in flame and forgotten.

Was this what Ikaruga hoped for? Did he want to fill the people's hearts with guilt and frustration, to throw the truth in their faces and make them see the errors of their ways?

I guess it really doesn't matter now, does it?

Our culture, our history and our people were mocked and rejected by the very royalties that they worshipped. Many of the countrymen are still in a state of shock and much of the Provincial Government is still paralyzed by the destruction of the capital. And thanks to that event, Japan is now split into a complete two factions with the majority of the citizens and military now supporting the government against the smaller royal family.

After the complete surrender of the rebel army on New Year's Day, January 1, 2002, Prime Minister Sakaki Kurechika and his new cabinet issued an emergency meeting session to discuss the future of Japan. The first order of business was the immediate relocation of the capital. The city of Fukushima was to become the new hub capital of the nation since it was one of the last few cities in Japan that had any military strength. The city also lies further northward, away from any conflict.

As it is seen by the public of the world, the United Nations declared Japan to be an unstable nation and immediately took it upon them for an immediate rearmament.

The conditions were clear and it could not be avoided seeing how we blatantly began killing each other for our own ideals. As per the agreement for continued self-governance, the provincial government was forced to submit to several conditions.

Firstly, Japan's military powers are to be reduced to 40% of its original strength. 25% will be used for self defense purposes only—a Self-Defense-Force if you will. The remaining 15% will be supervised by U.N. Officers in the continued offensive and defensive role against the BETA whenever necessary. This of course include TSFs, soldiers, light armored vehicles and ships.

Secondly, Japan will immediately hand over all of its weapons of mass-destruction like the SD-11 unit and G-Bombs to prevent such disasters from happening again. They will also disband and hand over members and/or former members of the Imperial Honor Guards for questioning.

And lastly, because of recent events: Japan's military industry will be kept to a limit of 30% and impose a strict rule of firearms supervised by the U.N. Army itself. This will effectively decrease armed resistance and the possibility of any other kind of rebellion from happening again.

Of course there were some who detests against these conditions, especially within the ranks of the Imperial Army. But no official or public impeachments have been made since the battle of Tokyo.

With the destruction of the capital and the lost of so many lives and equipment in this rebellion… it's obvious that they were not in a position to argue against anything. But still…I can't say for certain that this whole ordeal was entirely bad for the country. Even though they've lost everything they gained independence in return.

But not everything was destroyed during the coup. Thanks to the efforts of one particular Eishi… a sole survivor of the Royal Family was spared from the chaos. The Grand Shogun of Japan, Her Highness, Kobuin Yuuhi.

With her authority she assumed control of the provincial government of Japan and began a campaign of economical and industrial growth negotiations between the Japan and all other factions around the world. With most of the government, military and royalty, barely nonexistent… it's safe to say that Her Highness, alone, is now the one and true supreme authority here in Japan other than the Prime Minister himself.

A few members of the royal family who were on missions overseas returned as well. They were exempted from charge since they had no knowledge of what was happening in the mainland.

Many of the Eurasian officers who participated in this coup were captured after the dust of battle settled. In response to this, the E.U. announced that this incident was a unilateral action taken by the commanding officer of the Eurasian Army who recently went power-hungry. By laws of the Spanish Convention, all POWs are to be returned to Great Britain immediately for trial.

As of the rebel leader, Ikaruga Takatsugu… he was taken in by the remnants of the Imperial Ministry of Intelligence to be trialed on a later date. As of the moment, his whereabouts and status are unknown.

By January 4, 2002, Tokyo has been declared unsafe to the public due to strong radiation caused by the SD-11 bomb that detonated above its skies and the toxicity that was left by the G-element from the XG-70. Much of the rural areas including the city of Chiba and Saitama are now going through the state of post war reconstruction and will be maintained by the Imperial Army for the duration of the repairs.

To avoid collateral damage, a 12 mile roadblock has been declared by the U.N. with no one allowed in or out of Tokyo without the proper authorities.

The U.N. Army had mixed opinion in this matter of course. Despite the fact that they did save the country, a significantly large majority of the Japanese still remains uncertain of their goals. The damage that was inflicted upon Tokyo was largely done by our faction and by General Radhabinod's personal orders. Still… the General was able to avoid prosecution by delivering evidence that the rebel group were indeed prepared to destroy everyone that got in their way. Even by using another G-Bomb on us. All voices against the U.N. Army were then silenced in an instant and no other voice spoke against them from that day on.

To honor those that have fallen in this grave incident, a memorial was erected yesterday in the outskirt ruins of Tokyo by the Imperial Army. Another was built in Kyoto to honor those who perished during the Shikoku incident and those who sacrificed their lives to protect the last bastion of Japan. The ceremony was small at the least with only very few survivors attending both events.

As for Shirogane… well… let's just say there are a lot of things he has to answer for. As of right now, all information regarding him has been strictly classified by the United Nations supreme council. It can be safe to say that we cannot condone his actions. The military cannot dictate unofficial actions like this. The official word on paper will be saying that Shirogane was undertaking a top-secret mission for the 11th Pacific Army but of course there's really no truth in that. There was even little point blocking it from the public. After the coup d'état done by the Imperial Household Honor Guards… there wasn't a soul on Japan that didn't know that name.

His face was posted on every newspaper article and every news channel in existence. Rumors speculated around him like wildfire, especially in the net. Now that the media was no longer under the influence or control of the government, all stories regarding the boy spread faster than anyone could control. He became a hot topic for the media that everyone wanted to know. After the boy was relieved from duty he was immediately taken in for questioning by the intelligence group. But I seriously doubt they'll be able to publicize anything at all. Heck… even I'm having a hard time drawing a conclusion to what or who Shirogane really is. First… his superior ability as a soldier at such a young age, his strange relation with Vice Commander Yuuko, next his development program of the TSF's Operational System and now this.

What he did in Tokyo that day changed everyone's perspective about him. I don't even know which part of him are truth and lies anymore. I always knew that he was good when he piloted a TSF, everybody knows. His talents behind the machine were obviously second to none… but what he did there just changed everything.

I don't even know where to begin. To singlehandedly disabled the XG-70, go toe to toe against an army of the finest Eishis the Honor Guards could muster, defeat their leader in single combat and save Tokyo from destruction, surviving an SD-11 blast in the process and rescuing the Shogun from certain doom from the royal palace.

I feel like I'm writing a novel rather than a report. They did say that facts are a lot stranger than fiction and I guess this area proves that theory.

Shirogane's actions have greatly changed the course of this country. Though it won't be admitted by the military, the people know in all likelihood that none of us would be standing here if it weren't for the abilities of that young man. However I must also add that his decision was dictated by events beyond his control and I can only fathom that he must've suffered greatly to force himself to fight over and over against overwhelming odds. Yet despite these numbers… he continues to show incredible talents, defeating even the strongest of foes with barely even the slightest bit of effort.

But… under all that fierce exterior, I cannot seem to picture him as a deadly weapon. People will probably never understand it since they've only seen him in battle. But as his former instructor and… acquaintance I have come to know Shirogane personally.

He's a kind a sincere boy, an extremely capable soldier and somewhat charismatic if I may add. He's no different from the other cadets I've trained during my years as an instructor. But after what everybody saw on TV… I doubt my words will do him any good.

The rest of the Valkyries were exempted from the investigation seeing how none of them had any knowledge of his mission or his background. In fact… nobody knew of the boy's life before he joined the military cadet training. All they had were bits and pieces of his life and nothing concrete. Even my research during my obsession with Shirogane doesn't seem to hold any credit now.

The only person who would truly have any clue to who Shirogane really is would be Yuuko. It's no secret that Takeru and the Vice Commander hold a strange intangible relationship. Even I can't really say if they were old acquaintances.

(Takeru's POV) (U.N. Branch Headquarters, Kyoto) (Guests room) (06:20 AM)

Uhmm… ugh…

Damn… not this again. This is the third time I've woken up this early. No matter what I do I can't seem to get a decent wink of sleep. How long has it been since I've been imprisoned here? Two days? Three? I already lost count. The bed they provided me was soft as a feather but even with a good bed I can't seem to calm myself down. It feels like my body has been put on a permanent state of adrenaline even after the battle was over.

The battle. Just remembering it gives me the chills. The siege of Tokyo took a total of 3 days before it was finally over. The whole city was in shambles when I left. A lot of things happened afterward and just trying to remember each and every one of them was difficult enough. So many things happened all at once that they all become blurry when the calm came.

Yuuhi…

The last time I saw her was when I gave her up to the Imperial Army for medical treatment. She was hurt but not critical. Ironically though, the reason why she was able to get proper care so quickly was because of the Honor Guards who escorted me there to the nearest U.N. base.

After they lost their leader, the rebel army surrendered completely without any further resistance. I guess without their trump card they had no more reason to fight.

After the battle was declared over, Marimo chan and I were brought in for interrogation. It was the same process we had during the first coup a few weeks back. I was questioned through the usual things and I answered all of their questions directly. But strangely enough they seem to be avoiding all the important questions. I can only imagine that they're probably ordered not to dig deeper than they need.

A few days later I was brought into a guesthouse in the U.N. Embassy here in Kyoto. I always pictured myself to visit Kyoto sooner or later but never in this fashion. To be honest… this place is kind of like a fancy prison cell. It was a lot bigger than my room back at Yokohama Base that's for sure but it still felt like a detention block without the iron bars. The food is bearable but I still preferred Oba san's soup over the chef of this place.

There are two guards posted outside of my room with one of them checking on me every morning, afternoon and evening.

The only thing keeping me from going mad is the books they have lined up here. Aside from the usual military propaganda and science books they have lined up they also had something like magazines here for entertainment. It's been forever since I actually had something worth reading. I wonder if they'll loan this to me if I asked nicely.

Knock knock…

Eh? A visitor? It must be the usual checkup guy.

"Come in"

"It seems like you're doing well, Shirogane"

"Ah! Isu… I mean… Captain" I saluted to her in my proper military way.

"No need for formalities. This isn't an official visit" Captain… goodness it's been so long since I've seen a friendly face, or even a familiar face around here. It feels like forever since I last saw anyone from my squad. "Hooo? This is quite a grand room. Even the quarters back in Yokohama Base wasn't as fancy as this. (Ahehe…) But I supposed looks can be deceiving…" She's got that right. This room may look fancy but you can tell that this was nothing more but an expensive prison cell. You get good food, good bed and a nice bath… but you're still not free and you have no way of communicating to the outside world at all.

"Yeah… it can be… lonely here" I stated back feeling a bit better now that I saw a familiar face.

"I'll take your word for it. (…) Don't look so glum. It's not like they can press charges against you for saving peoples' lives. Sit down" We took our seats by the expensive sofas where she relaxed a bit. She looks just as tired as I am. That's no surprise after what happened. "I guess it must be hard for you too. To be arrested right after what you've accomplished. But seeing you on your feet is a good sign. I actually half expected you to be in a hospital bed when I came to visit.

"Well… I wasn't exactly that hurt when I left…"

"That's good. At the very least I can tell the others that you've made a full recovery. (Others?) The squad has been asking for your condition for days now. (…!) Don't worry. They're fine… to say the least. About half of the squad has been hospitalized after the mission. Excluding you, only Munakata, Hayase, Suzumiya and I are in active condition. The rest are now on temporary leave"

"Is… everyone alright?"

"No fatal injuries, so to speak" The Captain added with an honest look in her face. "I'm sure a few of them should be up and about right now. I think I saw Ayamine back at the barracks two days ago"

Haaaaaaa… thank goodness. They're all ok. A small part of my subconscious has been worrying about those girls for days now. I've actually been having nightmares for the worst case scenario.

"So… everyone's ok?"

"That depends on what you mean by 'ok'. If you mean they're alive then yes. Otherwise… most of them are still in medical care. Meiya especially. (…!) Relax. She's alive. I confirmed it myself. Apparently a member of the Honor Guard brought her to the U.N. base right before we all evacuated"

So… Tsukuyomi managed to do it. That's good. I was wondering how that girl was.

"But enough about them. I'm actually here to talk about you. (Eh?) Considering what happened at Tokyo… I guess it's safe to say you're not your every day soldier. (…?) Haven't you heard? Weren't you informed of what happened back at Tokyo?"

What is she talking about? "No… actually, I haven't been able to communicate to the outside world ever since I was brought here. They've kept me in this room for a few days now"

"I see…" The captain folded her arms and legs as she thought for a moment. "I guess that's only natural to keep POWs from other information. (…?) Well… if they're not informing you of anything then I don't have the right to tell you either. Sorry… but I guess you'll have to be out of the loop for a little while longer. (Wha…?) But don't worry. I can't imagine the council punishing you for saving people's lives. They're probably just confused on what to do with you after such a gallant display. (…) You really ruffled a lot of feathers"

I guess she's right. Even I remember how that fight turned out. I'm actually a bit surprised I came out alive at all and in one piece too. I shouldn't be surprise if there are some people who took what I did a bit differently. I supposed I won't be expecting a parade in my name like they showed in anime. Still… to know that my friends are alive and well… that's enough for me.

"Oh and before I forget. Ayamine asked me to give you something. (Eh?) Here… I'm not sure what it is but she preserved it in plastic" Eh? Wait a minute… is this? It is! It's the yakisoba bread! She wrapped it all in plastic to keep the sauce and meat from spilling. It almost looks professionally made. That's Ayamine for you. "I was able to sneak that pass security so don't let the guards see it, alright?"

"Yes ma'am"

"Ahu…" Oh? She laughed. "You really do look a lot like him, especially with your hair like that. (Eh?) Nothing. You just remind me of an old friend of mine. When was the last time you had a hair cut?"

"A haircut?" Ah! Now that she mentioned it. My hair has been growing wild for the past few days. I haven't a chance to… well… now that she mentioned it, I don't really remember the last time I had a haircut. I've been so busy with military duties and the war that I haven't had time to go through my daily necessities.

"Ahuhu… you look adorable with long hair. You should consider keeping it. (Hey!) Ahuhuhu" Grrr… don't tell me she added that just to tease me. It's really embarrassing to have someone make fun of your hair. She almost reminds me of Sumika. "Four missions…"

"Eh?"

"Four missions. That's a new record for the Special Task Force. (Captain?) For the past year… the A-01 has had a lot of casualties in every mission they undertook. In every mission, it is expected for the team leader to lose at least one or two Eishis. (…) Seeing that we have the lowest survival rating in the entire army… you won't be surprised to see at least one or two faces missing from the roster. (…) Two missions was the highest amount I could get my record to. No other squadron came close. But now… I have a new record of four. Sadogashima, Osaka, Kyoto… and now Tokyo. That totals up to four official missions. And in no small part thanks to you. (…?) You really are amazing, Shirogane. A little wild but amazing either way"

"Ahehe…" Wow… I've never seen the captain have such a soft expression.

"D… don't look at me like that. What are you thinking right now? (Ahehehe…) Don't laugh! I'm trying to show my appreciation here!"

Aha! Now she's blushing? "Ah… sorry about that Captain it's… just that you… (Hmm?) It's just that this is the first time I've seen you like this"

"Keep that up and I'll tell Hayase to go harsher on your next training session. (Ah!)"

Knock knock…

One of the guards at my door entered.

"Excuse me. But visiting time is over"

"Ah… is that so. I guess I used up my time" The captain replied waving the soldier off. "I guess that's it for today. Sorry I couldn't provide more"

I shook my head in reply. "No. I'm glad that you came, ma'am. If you hadn't, I could've gone mad already"

"Ahuhu… if that's how you feel then I'm glad I made the visit. I expect you to report to me the moment you get out of detention, Shirogane. (Ma'am) I'll be sure to send your regards. So until then… be safe"

"Yes ma'am"

(Imperial Ministry of Intelligence branch Headquarters)

"Haaaaa…" That was probably the 100th time Isumi Yayoi sighed that morning. Being a member of the Imperial Ministry of Intelligence was supposed to be a good thing. She had access to military files and secret documents that any man could dream of. But of course back then she'd have an army of subordinates to coordinate with her through all of the paperwork.

After the battle of Tokyo, many of the members were arrested for conspiring against the government of Japan and the royal family. Thankfully, her boss was able to get her acquitted for all charges and scrounge up whatever members they could find to help sorting through all the papers.

Ever since she returned to the active headquarters, she had been piling file after file like a machine. Her boss might be laid back but that was only because he let the others do the paperwork for him.

"I'm tired…" She whined wearily as she slouched herself onto her working desk after finishing the last of the files for one section. "If this keeps up… I might just grow wrinkles…" But her moment of rest was quickly interrupted by a call on her phone. She groaned but answered it anyway. "Yes? Isumi speaking"

"Director Isumi…"

The voice alone snapped the woman out of her tired state. "Councilman… (…) Y… yes sir. What may I do for you?"

"Where is Section Chief Yoroi Sakon?"

"The Chief?" She looked around the office a bit phased. "I'm sorry councilman but the Chief isn't at the office at the moment. I'm afraid he's… gone off on personal business. I'm afraid I'll have to let him call you back. Though I'm not sure when either…"

(Kyoto Red Cross Hospital) (Room 225)

Check…

The nurse of room 225 ticked a mark on her note as she looked at the heartbeat sensor monitoring the patient's body. From one machine to the other, she ticked one mark over the other as if it was just another standard routine for her.

She took a glance at the young cerulean haired girl making sure that her oxygen mask is strapped on tight and checking her vitals to see if it matched the machine.

It has been the fifth day since she started this basic routine and always the results seem to be improving. With no complications expected in the last minute, the nurse confirmed that the patient will rest easy and decided to end her shift for breakfast. Food was rather scarce these days and a little extra portion can go a long way.

And right before the door closed behind her, Yoroi's hands moved to the knob, holding it open just a little while longer. He took a peek in the room making sure no one else was inside and gently closed the door behind him, locking it with a defining click.

The man rarely showed any kind of emotions through his face and even less through his heart. He was a master of deception, a con artist if you will. He was the type of person who can fool a fisherman to buy his own fish. It took years of practice and a little bit of talent to perfect his unbreakable mask. With his words he was unbeatable and he always knew what to say when the situation called for it.

But now… as he stared blankly at his daughter's half scarred face… he was at a loss for words.

He brought flowers, chocolate and even a 'get-well-soon' balloon in hopes to share a joke with her. But the only response he got was beeping noise of machine and rough breathing from her facemask.

Never in his life did Yoroi thought that he would still have the capability to show such weakness. To show a soft side that he discarded a long time ago but there it was… a part of him that made him… a father.

"Because I know that no self-respecting father would dare give up his own child for the sake of others, no matter what the cost may be"

Shirogane's words echoed from his past. It voiced with such meaning that even a man like him could feel some sense of remorse. He extended his hand to hold his daughter… but quickly flinched back knowing that it would be useless.

In the end, his priorities played a bigger role. His work was too important to let feelings get in the way. "Hmph… I guess you were wrong… Shirogane kun…"

Seeing that there was little point in being here, the old man put his gifts on the table and tipped his hat to his daughter. For the hundredth time, he shut his heart and wore the mask of a spy once more.

But just as he took his first step towards the door, his ears flinched to a voice that called out to him. "Dad…" Even though the girl was not conscious… her mind could not hold back that which she desired most…

The shell that held the man's heart was ripped off by a beating voice echoing in his head. It forced him to look back to see a teardrop fall from the little girl's face.

The mask he wore shattered and the father that has been shouting in his subconscious finally came through. The echoes finally reached that thick skull of his forcing him to act.

He tossed the chair that stood in his way and kneeled beside his daughter bed, his hands clutching on the blanket searching for the girl's fingers. A sense of joy and unspeakable happiness filled his heart when he found it. He kissed her fingers and held it to his face like he had been longing for it. He wanted her touch on his face. He wanted to see his daughter smile like he does, he wanted to hear her laugh like her mother and listen to how she berates nonstop of her love-interest with glee.

"Mikoto…" It was only when he spoke her name did he realize that he had been crying all this time. The tears rolled out nonstop as if a dam had broke. "Mikoto…"

And in that silent hospital… no one would ever remember hearing the cries of a grown man echoing through the hallway.

(Room 226)

"O… oi… Tamase. Are you sure you should be doing that?" Touko questioned as she saw how her comrade was struggling just trying to pour tea in the teacup from her sickbed. "You don't really need to force yourself. You barely just recovered"

"It's alright. I… I can do this" The little pink haired girl insisted. But despite her attempts to pour the tea it all ended in failure. "Hauuuu…"

"Ahuhu… there's no need to force yourself in your injured state. (I'm sorry…) That's ok. I know that you want to get better soon but you won't heal that fast if you keep struggling with yourself. Here… have some"

"Thank you… 2nd Lt. Kazama…"

"Ahuhuhu… call me Touko. You and I are just about the same rank and I don't think formalities are required when both of us are injured. Here… drink it while it's hot"

"Hai…" The little pink haired mascot submitted and ate up. "Bwahh! Hot hot hot hot hot!"

"Ah sorry. I should've cooled it down first" Touko apologized feeling somewhat silly to give her hot tea.

"Hauuu… my tongue's burned"

Touko saw how the girl stuck her tongue out and couldn't resist smiling. She had a thought about her Cat's Tongue but decided to keep that joke to herself for now. "Pfff… it's alright. Here… cool it down with a nice apple. (Hai… munch munch) Ahuhu… you know… Misae san came to visit you the other day"

"Eh? You mean… 1st Lt. Munakata?"

"Yup. She came to wish you well but you were still asleep then. She brought us this fruit basket as a get well present. (Hoo?) She wants us to get better soon so make sure you get a lot of rest. (Hau…) Oh don't give me that face… ahuhuhuhu" But their happy moment was suddenly interrupted from a knock on the door. "Come in—eh?"

"Pardon my intrusion… (…!)" Kazama's face lit up along with her injured partner.

"Un… Undersecretary General Tamase?"

"Papa?"

The old man was wearing his usual suit and tie. Though he still held a dignified posture and an unbreakable stare, it was all just a façade. If you look closely at this man you would see that his suit alone had more wrinkles like he had been wearing it for days. His posture was flinching from time to time like he was struggling just trying to stand on his own two feet. His eyes also had dark bags which were covered with a thick coat of makeup to hide his fatigue.

As he entered the room, he gave out a sense of professionalism before speaking. "You must be part of the A-01 Special Task Force…" He said to Kazama directly which she saluted in turn.

"Yes sir. 2nd Lt. Kazama Touko, at your service…"

"Hmm… you have good eyes. You have my gratitude for keeping company to your subordinates. (Ah… no problem sir) I know that this may be unprofessional but… may I have a few minutes with her?"

"Ah… umm… of course. I'll be out of your way" Touko nodded before turning to her comrade with a cheerful wave. "I'll go checkup on Sakaki and the others. I'll come back and visit. (Alright…) Later then. Undersecretary…" She gave one last salute to the old man before departing.

The father and daughter paused for a moment waiting for the sound of a door closing behind them. It was a rather awkward pause with neither side speaking a word. But after Genjosai assured that he was in the clear of eavesdroppers he pulled up a chair and placed himself beside his daughter's sickbed.

"You've had a long week, haven't you?" He opened up with a small yet saddened smile.

"Papa…" The girl felt her father's hand on her head patting it like he was trying to congratulate her.

"Goodness. Have you always been this short? I figured the next time we meet you would've at least grown a few inches"

"Ah… well… I try to keep up. (Hooo?) I drink milk every day before training just like you told me. (Heeeh?) I try to eat meat and do pull-ups in my room"

"Oh? So you've been doing it religiously? Now that I think about it, you do seem to be outgrowing that scrub. Perhaps I should consider buying you bigger clothes the next time you visit. (Ahehehe) Hahahaha"

"I would like to visit home again…" The little girl added earning another nod from her old man.

"I would like you to come home too. I'm sure your friend would love the visit. I've made some renovation at our place. Though I had to destroy your room to make way for the archery range. (Eh!-?) Ahahaha… I'm kidding. But I did make a new dojo to practice. I guarantee that you will be thrilled. (Ahehehe) You and Suiko can play like the old times. You can even bring your friends along if you'd life"

"Heeh? That would be fun. Can I bring the whole team?"

"Hahahaha… the more the merrier. We can all have dinner if need be. (Really?) Really. But you might want to give me a call before you bring your whole group in"

"Yes papa!"

Their conversation was suddenly interrupted when Genjousai felt a tinge on his chest. His phone was ringing through his suit which he quickly whipped out only to frown at the caller number. It was only expected for a man of his stature to be busy with calls from dignitaries from around the world. But at the very least he wanted to spend a little more time with his daughter.

If he had a choice, he'd gladly let the world burn if it meant spending the rest of his days with the last of his family. But sadly… he wasn't given that option and his work meant that few others would get to see their families too.

"It seems like it's going to get busy soon"

"Are you going already?"

The old man nodded, grudgingly. "I'm afraid so. With the country as it is you can only imagine how troublesome it is in the U.N. consulate. I do wish I could spend more time…"

"It's alright" Miki cut him off with a brazen smile plastered on her face. "I know that papa has an important job to do. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to catch up later. (Tama…) Even if we can't I'll be sure to write you a lot of letters so you won't miss me as often. I'll write up every day so you'll know what I've been up to"

"Ahaha… I still have a stack of your letters that I haven't read either" The old man admitted trying his best to enjoy what time he had left in this room. "But… it would be nice to hear it from you directly. (Ahehehehe) Hahahaha…" Genjousai patted his daughter's head once more giving her some measure of courage. "Ah… that reminds me" He quickly whipped out something from his pocket that fit the size of his palm.

"Is… is that…?" Miki recognized it almost instantly when her father opened his hand. It was a round shaped locket encrusted with silver and strapped together in a chain. Just one look alone and anyone can tell how pricy it was.

"It was a locket your mother made when she and I married years ago. (…!) She… made it for you when she found out that you were coming along. She was very superstitious and always had a way with things like this. She said that it had some magical charm that would protect you from harm" He hung it over the girl's head and gently placed it around her neck. The chain was still too big so it hung right down to her belly. "Heh… it fits like a glove"

"Papa…"

"We both planned to give this to you on your wedding day. But I supposed with the world moving as it is, everyone will need all the protection they can get. Either physical or spiritual. I know that you don't really remember your mother… but I'm sure that she would've loved to see you now"

Miki looked down on the locket, tinkering with its mechanism. It was true that she doesn't really remember her mother. The closest things she could relate to her were the pictures her father kept around the house. Her old man described his wife like she was a saint and loved all the good and bad things about her. The bits and pieces that came from what others said about her shaped a person in her mind and to some… that was all that was needed to fill the hole in their lives.

Looking down on that locket, Miki could picture how her mother would make something like this. Even though it was a rather expensive locket she could tell that her mother had a talent in art. She could already imagine a lady much older than herself pouring her heart and soul in making such a trinket. The mere thought of it warmed her soul like nice fireplace by the house.

Miki felt the strange love in this locket. She wanted to hold it in her hand for a long time but she knew that there was someone else worthier of such a charm.

She gently took it off from her neck and handed it back. "Tama?"

"Here… papa. I think you should hold on to it. (…?) I can feel mama's warmth in this… and I can tell that it can give me hope. But… I would like mama to protect you instead of me. Because… I already have someone protecting me. (…!) And besides… it's also my duty to protect papa and everyone else. (Tama…) I will protect papa… because that's what I chose to do. It's my decision. So please… don't worry about me… and take good care of yourself and mama too… ok?"

"Tama…" Genjousai lowered his head in shame, his eyes reddening to the point of tears. To think that he and thousand others would be at the protection of his own child. It hurt him… yet at the same time filled his head with pride. He hated himself for actually feeling happy about her daughter's conviction.

Choking through a sob, Miki gently reached out and took his hand. The difference in their size was great but it was difficult to tell who was guiding who.

(Room 327)

In another room on another floor, another member of the Valkyrie Squad was having an embarrassing moment.

"Ah… ahhhh~" Chizuru let out a moan as she felt her body being pressed. "S… stop that Akane. You're… hurting me…"

"Oh stop whining and relax, will you? Just a little more"

"Ahhh… th… that feels weird. I don't think that's… the right hole"

"Eh? Oh right, sorry. How about this?"

"Ahhh! Th… that hurts… ahhh~~ (Ahehe… sorry) Y… you're teasing me on purpose aren't you? I'll rip your tongue off!"

The red head laughed it off. "Oh now that's an interesting concept from someone like you. (Poke…) Oh? Soft?"

"Ahh! A… Akane! Please don't do…ahhh!"

"Just… a little… more… HMPH! Just… a little more…"

A few patients who passed through that room that morning put up bizarre fantasies in their head as they listened on what was happening in that room. The moans and groans they could hear was like porn except for the visual aids that was needed for the stimulation.

Those patients were quickly turned away when one of the nurses came by and urged them to keep their naughty thoughts to themselves. But unfortunately what was happening in that room was far beyond sexual harassment.

"And… there we go…" Akane announced with a triumphant face. "Who would've thought that putting on a uniform would be a 2 man job?"

"Ah… yeah… thanks" Chizuru appreciated her help. With the injuries she sustained during the battle, just putting on her skirt was like trying to assemble a rifle with one hand.

"Hey, it's what friends are for, right? Besides, you helped me put on my scrubs the other day" They shared a small laugh together. "But are you sure you want to go back already? You've only been hospitalized for a few days. No one would blame you if you take a few more days off. Besides… are you going to be alright without your glasses? You can't exactly navigate without them. You broke your last pair earlier"

Chizuru let out a sigh. Her friend was right. She did break her glasses somewhere along the way. She had a hard time just trying to read the signs to the proper restrooms. "Don't worry about it. I have a spare one in Yokohama Base. The doctor already told me that I have a perfect bill of health. These are simply aftereffects from being hospitalized. I'm sure I'll be back to normal once I get back. Besides… it's not like I'm going to the battlefield any time soon. I'll probably just be helping Suzumiya with the paperwork. (I see…) Don't worry. I'll be sure to come and visit you whenever I get the chance"

"Yeah…" Akane relaxed a bit in gratitude. "Say hi to onee chan for me. (I will…) Oh and bring a box of sweets if you can. I don't know about you but I'm already getting bored of hospital food. I might even want to try that fortified orange juice for a change"

"Hehehe… come on now. It can't be that bad"

"It's easy for you to say since you're getting discharged!" The oragette added fuming from ear to ear. "Me… I have to stay here for another week thanks to my kneecap"

"Ahuhuhu… alright I get it. I'll see if I can get you something from the store. But I won't make any promises. (Hai hai…) I don't know if there are any sweets but I'm sure they have a fruit basket for sale down by the lobby. (Yay!) Anyway I should probably report to Captain Isumi first. I don't want to lag behind on roll call if it can be helped"

"Hai hai… I know better than to try and stop you once you've got your mind set on something"

But just as Chizuru was finishing her uniform on the mirror, a knock on the door caught her attention. "Excuse me, may I enter?" She quickly recognized the voice as one of the doctors of the hospital. "Sakaki Chizuru?"

"Yes… that's me" She answered at the call of her name. "Is there something wrong?"

"No it's nothing like that. One of your personal effects was found by one of the patients and he asked to give it back to you"

This of course made the girl in question raise a brow. "One of mine? I don't remember bringing anything with me when I came in"

The doctor ruffled through is lab coat and handed her a small object which fit her hand. "The patient said that you dropped it on your way to the lobby"

It was a box. An expensive looking box at that. One can tell just by looking at the fabric that it was made and the logo at the top hatch was something to boast. Those who own such a fine brand are surely the envy of many jewelry holders.

"Hooo? Is that jewelry?" Akane asked with a teasing tone.

"Baka… I wouldn't own something so expensive. It's not use…ful…!-?" But she stopped mid way when she opened the box to see its contents. "Th… this is…"

The doctor who gave her the box raised a brow. "I'm sorry. It is yours, isn't it?"

The girl quickly closed the box and stared at the man with a straight face. "Pardon. But who was the patient who found this? (Eh?) May I know who retrieved it? I would like to properly thank him"

"I'm not sure. I just retrieved it from the reception desk at the lobby. (…) Umm… anyway, please try to be more aware of your belongings. Please excuse me…"

After the doctor left the room in a rush, Akane turned to her friend who seemed to be staring intently at the box given to her. "What's up with that guy? (…) Hey… Chizuru, what's in the box?"

The chestnut haired girl took a breather before opening it again. Akane expected to see a ring, a necklace, maybe even a bracelet inside. But out of everything that she could picture in her mind… a pair of eyeglasses was all that was to be found.

Chizuru felt her chest heave. This was clearly the act of someone she knew very well. It wasn't the first gift she received indirectly. Under normal circumstances, she'd probably just put them in the drawer and let them collect dust for all eternity. But now… after seeing this… her resolve on her oath began to waver.

She swore to herself that she would never tie herself to that man ever again. She cut herself off from him. That was the very reason why she joined the United Nations in the first place.

She tapped the side of the lens and noted the quality of the craftsmanship that was poured into this pair of glasses. The frame was made out of solid gold so there would be no worries of it damage in any situation. The rims were round almost similar to her old pair and the lens themselves were probably made out of replaceable material so it can be fixed and maintained easily.

"Ara? There's a note at the bottom?" Akane pointed out to Chizuru's surprise.

"A rabbit needs to have good eyes to keep watch of wolves…" She muttered the words out.

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?"

Chizuru gave a small chuckle in reply. "A rabbit eats carrots. Carrots are the most basic food group that helps eyesight… heh…"

"Huh?"

(Japan-BETA war memorial)

Ayamine Kei walked along the quiet veteran's park that morning carrying with her a bushel of flowers and candle incense for a particular person. No… she wasn't visiting a secret lover or anything but rather an old man whom she hadn't had the time to see.

After a few minutes of walking she arrived at the very heart of the graveyard where a plank of stone with a carved name was placed.

Ayamine Shuukaku…

She placed the flower the soft bed of earth and pulled some of the weed that had grown in the area. No grave keeper had tended to this place for over a month now so it's no wonder why it seemed rather overgrown.

Kei wondered how long it's been since she last thought about her father. Has it been years? It should. She's been in the military far longer than she even had a childhood. It was so long ago that it almost felt like it was another life entirely. The flowers she drew back in preschool, the dream of seeing the aquarium, the tour to the zoo. All of them… gone in an instant.

After cleaning the grave site she lit the candle incense and offered a silent prayer to her old man. It was a silent offering but one that had much respect in it. God knows that the people buried here deserved better.

"Kei?" The girl's thoughts came to a quick halt when she heard her name being spoken behind her. She whipped her head back and noted a familiar bespectacled figure standing there, wearing surprisingly plain clothes, carrying two bottles of sake in hand.

"…Naoya?

The former rebel leader poured a bottle down the grave giving his former mentor something to enjoy in the afterlife. It was a casual gesture… but unnecessary.

"I see… so you're on leave" Sagiri said to the girl behind him, who gave out a soft yet silent nod in reply. After drenching the gravestone, the man lit another incense candle and offered another silent prayer the same way Kei did earlier. "I've been visiting your father's grave as often as I could. I never imagined that I would actually see you here. (…) I supposed you must be on leave if you are here personally"

"…"

"Ahehe… still as silent as ever. You haven't changed…" Naoya let out a soft laugh pouring two cups of sake in turn.

"What are you… doing here?" Kei finally spoke up breaking her silence. Her eyes were different. They were hard and very much focused.

"Paying my respects. I have been granted leave for good behavior and probation for community service. I expected my life to be extinguished when the battle ended that day… but it seems like my sentence has been suspended" He swallowed the contents of his cup and quickly poured himself another. "Heh… I forgot that you never did like sake. You always had orange juice or soda whenever your father had guests in the house"

"I did not like… the taste back then"

"Ahahaha… yes neither did I. Now that I recall… it was your father who influenced me to this drink. They say that sharing sake is the best way to two people to connect"

"You fell asleep on the first toast"

Naoya rubbed the back of his head shyly as she reminded him of his light drinking habits. "Ahahaha… yes that's true. I woke up the next morning with scribbles on my face"

"Heh…"

The two of them stood there for awhile, in front of the grave as if having the dead be their only audience. It was quiet… and no one was around to disturb them. Kei would've enjoyed this moment too… but she knew that this happy moment wasn't going to last.

"I made a deal with the Imperial Army yesterday…" Sagiri opened up his main topic putting his cup down to stop himself from drinking more. Kei's ear twitched and brought her full attention to him as if she was expecting this. "After what happened at Tokyo, I supposed it should be no surprise that they've become desperate. They're recruiting prisoners and former soldiers to fill in their ranks. In exchange for 15 years of service we will be granted full pardons at the end. It's funny how people can do the craziest things when they're pushed to a corner"

Ayamine looked down to her father's grave with heart in pain. She didn't know how she should be feeling right now. Though she was happy to see her former friend alive and well… but to see him in such a pained state was almost unbearable.

"I see. So… you're still in the Army?"

The man poured himself another cup before answering. "It is the only occupation I know how to do. Besides… there is much I need to repay. (…!) Though the men hide it, I cannot deny the fact that I ruined the lives of thousands because of my own petty grief. I put my own feelings and my personal hatred before the will of the people and because of that I became a pawn for someone else's ambition. (…) There is no way for me to atone for what I have done. But at the very least I can repay those who have died with my own life. (…!) Heh… your father would've been ashamed to know a man like me…"

"Naoya…" Kei suddenly spoke up breaking the man off his thoughts. She approached him, inching closer by the second. Her eyes were watery as if she was feeling torn inside out.

"Kei…"

She pressed herself against his chest making him blush for a short moment. The former rebel saw that girl's face up close and quickly all the memories he had with her during their childhood flashed through his mind like a cheap VHS recorder.

And just as the girl got up closer to his face in the right angle, she swiped her hand right pass his face hitting it with all the force she had in her weakened body.

Naoya recoiled from the blow with his glasses nearly off from his face. That slap sent his brain ringing like a BETA Grappler hitting on his front door.

"Do you enjoy being pitied?" His former childhood friend asked with her tone harsher than any military instructor. "Do you think that giving your life in battle would bring back those from the dead? (…) Haven't you learned anything at all!-? (K… Kei?) If you want to start atoning for what you've done… then at the very least… live! If you throw away your life because you think yourself guilty… then all those who followed you would've truly died for nothing. Are you simply going to run away like you did before? Are you going to turn a blind eye to everything around you and simply look upon yourself!-?"

"Kei… I…"

Slap!

The girl sent another blow to his face shutting him up. "Why don't you try to think how I would feel if you really died?" Tears rolled down her face as she scolded him, her voice almost straining. "Stop making self serving excuses and start taking responsibility of your actions. Only then can you start to forgive yourself. (Kei…) Until you get that into your head, don't ever show your face around me ever again! (…) And you're wrong on one thing. My father would still love you… no matter what you may have done. You… you were like a son to him. (…!) If you're still gonna wallow in your own pity… then do it when no one's around…"

It took awhile for Sagiri to get his stance back together. The girl's words hit him harder than any of Shirogane's punches could ever do. He almost lost his footing as he struggled to get back on his feet.

"If you plan to throw your life away… I will find you" Kei added before gulping her first glass of sake. "I will hunt you down and bring you back from hell itself, if I have to…"

And just like that, the girl turned her back on her former fiancé and walked off leaving him to ponder in his thoughts. But despite all the lashing she dished out, Naoya couldn't help but grow a small smile down his lips as he watched his first love walk the roads with her head held high. He turned his head to the gravestone, trying his best trying to hide his shame.

The man could already picture his former mentor laughing at him from the afterlife.

(Kyoto Imperial Prison)

Ring!

Tsukuyomi Mana opened her eyes at the sound of the bell. The sight and smell of the prison was the same as ever, not that it ever changes of course. It was dull, depressing and the routines here were insufferable. Shades of dark and gray were all that greeted her in the morning. But she guessed that was understandable considering that this place was a prison after all.

It was a state of the art detention center with concrete walls, barbed wires and a moat to prevent all attempts of escape and entrance. In every hall there would be at least four or five armed guards patrolling the area, all of which are given strict orders to shoot anyone with buck-shots that would be giving the first sign of trouble. Seeing the place from the outside seemed pleasant enough but it was the inside that would break a person completely. The prison was built not only to keep the inmates but to crush all hope of ever escaping. The only way out was to either serve their sentence or… find someone to get them out through a hefty bail.

It has only been a week since Tsukuyomi was brought here after her trial. At first she expected to be executed like the other members of the high ranking members of the Honor Guard but instead she was incarcerated in this place along with the rest of the rebel army.

There were no excuses for those who lifted their weapons against the people that day. Whether she remembered it or not, Tsukuyomi knows what her comrades did. Simply being a part of that military organization is enough to find her guilty.

Getting up from her hardened bed in her 6x8 feet cell she got out to listen to the hall guard make out roll calls.

The guards and prisoners in this side of the prison were all female due to the gender verdict but even so it served little difference to those inside.

Breakfast was served afterwards. As you'd expect from a prison, the food was meager with little to offer in taste. But as a soldier this wasn't new to her. Sometimes during missions, Tsukuyomi had to go on with nothing but insects and leafs from trees for days. It was common practice for her training, especially for those in the Honor Guards.

After baths in the shower room, the prisoners would be given a selected number of jobs to do for their community service. Tsukuyomi often pick sewing as her task since it was one of the few things she was actually good at. To knit and to use the sewing machine to a certain extent was somewhat different from what she's done in her years as a soldier. Most of the time she would be knitting torn inmate clothes and other pieces that needed mending. But at the least she was doing her part.

On rare occasions she would also be helping out in the kitchen to whip something that was barely edible. Prison food didn't exactly have a variety you can choose from.

After the jobs are done, the inmates would go to the courtyard for leisure time after lunch. The prisoners would sort themselves into the recreational games provided there. Tsukuyomi did not join them of course unless there was a good Shogi match that would catch her interest. But she prefers to be alone for the duration of her stay in this place.

Most of the inmates in this prison were former members of the Imperial Army and the Imperial Honor Guards that fought during the coup in the capital city so it was not surprising that she saw a few familiar faces amongst the crowd.

Checking her time, she knew that there were only fifty minutes left until dinner and then they'd all go back to their cells. It would be another peaceful day in the next 20 years she would spend here.

"1st Lt. Tsukuyomi Mana?" The call of her name caught the woman's attention. Usually it wouldn't be bothering if it wasn't for the rank title that came with it. She turned around and noted the guard who called her.

"Yes?" She responded looking as stern as was before.

"You have a visitor. Please come with me"

"A visitor?" The young Guard raised a brow in question. "I was not informed of any visits today"

"This is an informal visit sent in by the warden. Now please… follow me"

Tsukuyomi complied seeing that there was nothing else to do in the courtyard that day. Other than gazing at the clouds her day of peace seemed to only last for so long.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

…!

Tsukuyomi's reaction was justified with her visitor. As she was handcuffed by the guards on both hands and feet she could see the person on the other side of the screen door quite clearly. The slim figure and the hairstyle that she could easily pick out in space.

"You're secured" The guard declared rattling the chain a bit just to be sure that they won't come off. They had to make sure that the inmates would never be able hurt the guards or any visitors upon their visit. Strict policies like these were followed to the letter. "You have 15 minutes"

After she was bound with cuffs and chains, Tsukuyomi was pushed through the small frame with the door closed behind her. In that single room there was only one table, two chairs and a hanging light bulb which wasn't being used. The young Guard felt exposed… like a sacrificial-meat that was being sent to the hounds. But there was little point in being scared now. Fear was merely just a distraction at this point.

With a deep breath, the emerald haired girl walked up to the table and gladly pulled herself the last remaining chair opposite to her visitor.

The two figure stared at each other, both expecting the other party to speak up first.

Tsukuyomi felt a tinge of shame creep up on her chest as she trade glances with her visitor. The injuries that were visible from the girl's uniform were enough to remind her of what she had done that night. Though it was not intentional… that did not change the fact that it was her hands that caused those wounds.

"It's good to see you again… Tsukuyomi" Meiya was the first to speak, breaking the silence between them.

"And you as well… Meiya sama…" She replied trying her best to look content or happy. "I see that you have recovered from your injuries… I am glad"

"It was nothing… though the doctors did say that I should avoid stressful work for awhile so I will not be able to pilot my TSF in the time being. But I am also relieved to see you well. Prison life has not done you wrong I hope"

"Ah… of course. Most of the inmates are former colleagues of mine so we all know one another well"

"I see… that's good. I was worried that they may have mistreated you in any way. But considering your abilities… I believe those worries may have been misplaced. Ahuhuhu…" It was a cold and bitter laugh the two of them shared. Some might say a thankless joke.

"Meiya sama…" Tsukuyomi opened up sighing with some sense of defeatism. "I understand that this is rude for me to say but what is the true purpose of your visit? The warden in this detention center doesn't make exceptions to visitors that easily. Had you made a proper request…I would've understood… but…"

"Ah… I see…" Meiya changed her tone, ending their little old-friend-visit charade. "You are as perceptive as ever. I apologize for the deception. To be honest I am actually here on official business. The delegates are discussing on releasing several political prisoners as a favor to the provincial government. This information will be set on the news by tomorrow"

Tsukuyomi understood the act like it was part of her dictionary. It was true that many soldiers were imprisoned here but at the same time there are a few members of the former Honor Guards that had ties to the government itself. Relatives of diplomats and such were of the few examples. It was probably one of the few things the U.N. could do to appease the Japanese mass that were still undecided in the new regime and occupation. Now with the Imperial Army almost under their complete control and their strength drained to almost non-existent, there was little left to stand in their way.

Japan will undoubtedly become a colony under U.N. control.

"I see…" Tsukuyomi gave out a sigh. She knew that the day when Japan came under U.N. rule would not be far off… but she never expected it to come like this. "So the United Nations has absolute control over Japan" Her visitor could only answer with a nod. "I supposed it cannot be helped. In the end we were only delaying the inevitable. Japan has been unstable since that day. It would not be a surprise to see many of our countrymen supporting that faction now that they have seen their strength"

"I have no doubt that a lot will change in time" Meiya added folding her arms to a fixed position. "Even now… the system that we followed in the past is slowly attuning to the people's needs. (…) Perhaps it is for the better. We will need to change our ways eventually. We cannot remain stuck in the past less we remain there forever"

"You speak 'his' words…"

"Perhaps Ikaruga had some merit to his dreams. This land has not changed. Though our methods differ and our beliefs conflicting, I still believe that what he said to the country has moved some minds. (…) Perhaps this was his purpose all along… to change this country regardless of what the cost. I guess we'll never know…"

The two girls sighed almost in unison. The battle of Tokyo had left scars in them that would take years to heal. Tsukuyomi knew this well as she kept passing glances at her friend's stomach remembering every details of that fight.

The very thought of that fight left Tsukuyomi with several sleepless nights. She would see that moment pass through her mind like a nightmare. On some nights the poor girl would wake up hearing her own scream, blood in her hands and her finger on the trigger. It felt so realistic that she could not help but relive it from day to day.

Though it was true that she had little control over herself that time… it still didn't change the fact that she killed others with her own hand.

"How is… Her Highness?" Tsukuyomi asked, changing the subject.

"She is well. Though it is not expected of her to make any public appearance any time soon due to her injuries. (…) She will recover. You may rest easy"

"I see. Then he really did it"

"You do not sound surprised…"

"After what I have witnessed that night… my expectations of him have greatly risen. I will not be surprised if he performed greater feats in the future. Though I must admit that he is reckless and naïve. Shirogane… does possess something I still have yet to fathom. I doubt I would be able to defeat him if we were to fight"

"That is a high praise coming from you. I have never heard you recommend someone so highly before, Tsukuyomi"

The prisoner laughed. "That is true. But still… the boy deserves it. He and I did fight once… though I can scarcely remember it" Meiya felt the gunshot wound on her stomach tinge a bit at the reminder of the fight. "I do not believe any amount of forgiveness will do for me"

"It is fine. What's done is done. It is pointless to talk of the past when the future is still ahead of us"

"Yes… that is true. I apologize. (Don't be…) Then perhaps I should ask what your true intentions are for this visit. (…?) I am honored that you would spend your time with me, Meiya sama. But I cannot see you here without any real business"

After a brief pause, the cerulean haired girl sighed in response. There was little point in hiding something from someone who knows you from birth. "It appears I cannot hide anything from you after all, Tsukuyomi. (…) Very well then. The true reason I am here is to grant you probation and suspend your sentence. (…!) In truth, the warden here actually owes me a favor from before and I've called in some of my contacts that are still in service"

"But why would you…?"

"It is only temporary of course. (…!) The paperwork is being processed at the moment so I took the liberty of asking a visit as a favor. (Meiya sama… you can't possibly mean…) It is only a temporary measure. I am still working on your full release of custody with the proper authorities. I cannot say when you will be erased from suspicion. (But…!) You will stay in Kyoto in the mean time. So long as you do not go against authorities they will not press charges against—(Wham!) Hmm!-?"

Tsukuyomi pounded her cuffed fists on the table asserting her infuriation. "That is not what I meant!"

Three armed guards entered the room at the call of the loud noise.

"I understand your resentment… but I have already been granted permission by the warden" Meiya added only earning another spiteful look from her friend. "You will be released tomorrow in the afternoon. I already have a place for you to stay to serve your probation. Should your 'stay' pass without incident for two months, they will grant you free leave"

"But Meiya sama. This is unjustly. Why should I go while the others remain imprisoned? Though I may have little knowledge of it, the fact remains that I am part—(Be silent!) Ah…!" Meiya's words silenced the woman almost instantly.

"This is my decision and mine alone. (…) I do not need your permission to do it nor did I ask for it. (…!) The deed has been done. (Meiya sama!) We are done here…"

"Wait! Meiya sama!" Tsukuyomi tried to reach out but she was stopped by the three guards behind her. "Keh…!"

But just before Meiya left through the visitor's exit… she turned back one more time to watch her friend struggle. "Tsukuyomi… let us meet again… in more peaceful times…"

"Meiya sama!"

(Takeru's POV) (U.N. Branch Headquarters) (05:20 PM)

It looks like they're finally closing the embassy. The last of the guards are just switching shifts. I wonder how much longer do they intend to keep me locked up here. There's only so much a man can do to entertain himself. If it wasn't for the Captain's visit this morning I probably would've shouted at someone.

Still… the information she provided me was relieving. Knowing that everyone is alive and well got me relaxed. My subconscious must've been holding it out on me.

Well… I guess there's no point in staying up any longer. I'd better get change and head to bed. It's the only thing I can do n—hmm?

"1st Lt. Shirogane…" Eh… that voice. I've heard it from somewhere before. "Excuse me…" Oh I remember her. She's… Piatif, Yuuko sensei's secretary.

"Come in…"

"Pardon for intruding this late. I've come to escort you out. (Eh?). You are now being released of custody as of this moment. Vice Commander Kouzuki has negotiated your detention sentence. (Yuuko sensei?) Yes. Please sign here to verify your release"

"Oh… umm… ok" I answered hesitantly while quickly signing my name on the release form she handed to me on the table. If Piatif is here, does that also mean Yuuko is here too?

"Good. Now please follow me"

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Whoa… so this is the U.N. Headquarters in Kyoto. It's a lot bigger than I remembered. But then again, I was practically half asleep when I first arrived. The hallway alone is huge and decorated with stylish furniture. This place looked a lot more like an embassy than a military base. There are still a few armored vehicles you can see outside of the window and even some tanks being shifted through the parking lot.

"1st Lt. Shirogane. Please keep up. We do not wish to be late"

"Ah… yes ma'am. Sorry" But it's hard to keep my focus right now. After being locked up for so long it wouldn't be a surprise if everything feels… unreal. Not to mention that I still have a lot of things going through my head at the moment.

Hmm? Hey… isn't that? It is!

It's Yuuko sensei! And she's with… the base's CO, General Radhabinod.

Piatif and I stopped a few meters from them and saluted in proper form. "Pardon the interruption sir, Vice Commander. I've brought 1st Lt. Shriogane as you requested"

"Ara… that was quick. I guess she wasn't kidding when she said she could have it done in an hour" Yup… that's Yuuko sensei alright. It feels like forever since I listened to one of her antics. I never imagined I would feel so relieved to hear her voice again. "Good work. I'll be done in a few minutes. Go get the car. (Yes ma'am) Hmmm…" Wh… why is she looking at me like that? Did I do something wrong? "So… how are you feeling? (Eh?) You had a whole week to rest. Don't tell me you're still tired. Heh… not that it matters"

"Ah… huh?"

"I guess it's safe to say that you've had some interesting things happen to you these past few weeks. I'd like to hear it all through your own words. (…) You really know how to attract a crowd, Shirogane. (Ah… yes ma'am) Well then General. If that's all, we'll be taking our leave"

"Wait… Professor Kouzuki. (…?)" The General raised his hand to stop her. "Before you go, I would like to have a word with you subordinate" Eh? He wants to talk with me?

"Huh? Ah… I see. Alright then. I'll be waiting outside. Come to me when you're done, Shirogane. (Yes ma'am)"

"Be at ease, 1st Lieutenant. I am not here to direct punishment on you" The General opted to me. Phew… I guess that left some tension off my shoulders. "If you were in any trouble, the imprisonment here should've been punishable enough. (Sir…) But I supposed you understand why we had to keep you locked up for such a long time. Though I must admit that it was thanks to you that we were able to achieve victory in Tokyo… the deed you performed there has been taken very differently by many groups. Some may hail you as a hero, but to the eyes of others, you are to be considered a threat. (…) To not be harsh to judge them. It is only human nature to fear that which they do not understand"

"Ah… yes sir"

"That reminds me…" His face softened a bit to me. "This is perhaps… not the first time we've met, isn't it? (No sir…) But I supposed this is probably the first time you and I had a personal conversation such as this. Hmmm hmm…" Oh? He laughed? "I would've enjoyed having more time to talk with someone like you, 1st Lt. Shirogane. But it seems that duty must come first. In any case I would like to give this to you personally…"

He handed me a small colored box which was big enough to fit the palm of my hand. "These are…"

They're military ribbons. I've seen these before on the chest of officer's uniforms. They symbolize missions or campaigns they've been through. I think I've read it somewhere before.

"Ribbons…" The General confirmed it for me. "All field personnel who participated in the battle for Tokyo are given one. Though you were unofficially part of the battle, I thought you may have at least earned something. (Ah… yes sir) Do not be mistaken. Though it may be nothing more but a small trinket to the eyes of another, it is the only way the military knows how to reward those who accomplished things beyond their oath. (…) Occasions such as this are usually given with celebration… but after what had just occurred, we need to give the people and soldiers time to mourn and rest. But… at the very least… I would like to thank you in person… 1st Lieutenant"

"Sir!" I saluted him in kind.

Eh? He extended his hand to me.

"In other countries we call this a handshake…"

"Uh… yes sir…" I returned the gesture in kind. His hands feel wrinkly yet strong. It… kind of reminds me of my dad.

"Let us meet again…"