Part 61: Interview 30 BonusBarracks 30 - A Celebration of Freedom
Celebrations echo from out of the barracks of Yellow Comet, and they can be heard for miles around. The soldiers within toast, and drink, and toast again, and drink again, until they’re merry and ready to dance the evening away, celebration the newfound freedom of Yellow Comet from the cold grip of Black Hole.
“Kevin’s the man of the hour, indeed,” Sonja is saying as she stands at a microphone to address the soldiers. “But let’s not forget the brave soldiers that contributed to our country’s freedom. Firstly, I’d like to extend the warmest of greetings to Vanessa; she’s been put on the fast track to become an ACO, and I think I speak for everyone when I say she thoroughly deserves it.”
Vanessa rather uncharacteristically blushes as the soldiers whoop and applaud her, hiding her face in her hands and waving them away. “Come now, I only did what any of us would have done... thanks, though, Sonja.”
“Furthermore, although Father couldn’t be here tonight, as he’s on official business with Nell and the other country leaders, he did want me to let a particular soldier know that his contributions have been duly noticed, and that he will be richly rewarded for them soon.”
Whispers abound through the barracks, wondering who Sonja could be referring to, and she lets the rumours fly for a few moments more before opening her mouth to speak again.
“Kyril, my cousin… you’ve been put forward for the Yellow Comet Insignia of Bravery, for your consistent contributions to both the war effort and the morale of the troops. I hope that is a serviceable enough apology for the way Father has treated you as of late.”
Kyril begins to beam and he leaps up. “Sonja, I was happy to serve without a reward. To be put forward for such an award… it’s made me really happy. Thank you, cousin, and thank you, everyone!”
“You should really be thanking Rose.” Sonja replies, smiling. “She was the one who recognised your feats and passed them on to the Emperor himself. Speaking of, I’d like to give a big round of applause to our tireless ACO, Rose Kuroda. Rumour has it that she trained under my dude himself, and I think her near-perfect command of the battlefield is worthy of being my dude’s successor, don’t you think? Congratulations, Rose!”
The clapping begins in earnest as the troops celebrate their beloved ACO, but it soon dies down and Sonja looks around curiously.
“...Is she not here? I wonder where she’s gone. Nevertheless, I want to thank every single one of you, but I also know that you’d like to get on with your celebrations, so I’ll say this: you all helped free Yellow Comet today, and you all deserve a night to call your own. So please, enjoy yourselves.” she says, starting to walk away from the microphone and to the exit of the room.
The party continues in earnest behind her, and she gives a faint, sad smile.
“After all, the war isn’t over yet… and I don’t know how many of us will return home safely next time.”
Lysander, Talora, Sofia and Dymek are celebrating with Kyril with some drinks and a conversation around one of the many tables in the barracks’ main room.
“So, you’re staying?” says Kyril, looking at Sofia and Lysander.
“Y-yes!” Sofia says. “I want to stay with my son, and protect him, and… well, he’s learning a lot from all of you soldiers.”
“Mother…” moans Lysander. “I’m already an adult, I don’t need to learn anything else. But I would certainly like to avoid going back to see my father if it can be helped. I’ve felt so much freer since leaving home.”
Talora smiles at the pair of them. “I’m glad you’ve found happiness here. I’ll work my hardest to ensure that you continue to be happy!”
“God, what a bunch of saps we all are!” says Dymek, grinning. “Another round, folks?”
Vanessa sits with Peregrine, still a little giddy. “I did it. I’m going to be an ACO, Perry!”
“You sure are. You earned it, gal!” Peregrine replies, jostling her good-naturedly. “Just don’t give me any orders, alright?”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to if we’re to win. But my orders will probably be ‘fly a lot and kill everything’!”
“I don’t need orders to do that, I’ll do that anyway!” grins Peregrine. “Say, where’s Andromeda? I don’t want her to miss out on the party!”
“Oh, true. We should go find her and Rose. They must be getting ready or something.” Vanessa says, making for the door, with Peregrine following behind her.
“Those two? They hardly seem like the type to spend hours getting dressed up for a party!”
Up on the roof of the barracks, looking up at the quiet night sky, two girls sit side by side, enjoying a moment of peace and simplicity amongst the busyness of the Yellow Comet barracks.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be used to it.” Rose says.
“Used to what?” replies Andromeda.
Rose closes her eyes. “I wanted to become a good ACO. And I think I’ve succeeded. They look at me in… in the same way I used to look at my dude.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing.”
“Oh, it is.” Rose replies. “It’s just hard to get used to. You know, when I first encountered ACO my dude, I thought him a dullard.”
“Really?” Andromeda says, sitting up to listen more intently. Rose nods.
“Correct. But in that final battle, I saw a different side of him. A man who put everything on the line, not just to win, but to win without losing a single soldier. I… am not one to cheaply idolise people, but I must admit… I respected him greatly after seeing that performance.”
“I see, yes, understand.” Andromeda replies.
“And so I feel… I feel like I strive to embody him, now. Or at the very least, that idea of minimalising deaths in war. Anyway… we’d best get back to the party. People will be wondering where we’ve got to.”
“That sounds nice.” Andromeda replies. “Let’s go, descend, and enjoy ourselves.”
As they head off to return to the party, Rose sighs.
“I’m not really much of a partier, though…”