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Author Topic: Thoughts of home. [Marco]  (Read 2266 times)

Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« on: January 07, 2018, 07:18:12 PM »
It had been a while since Axel had had a substantial amount to write to his mother, and he was certain she hadn't taken his silence as trouble. When they wrote frequently, their letters were space and hardly worth writing at all, so since the end of last year they'd taken to only writing when there was enough to talk about.

Her last letter had updated him on the present situation in Trost District, tales of family friends and what they were now doing, as well as updates on how the bakery, once ran by his father and assisted by himself, coped with other friends of theirs. Nothing worried him in her letter, and he was relieved that nothing untoward was happening. As a member of the Garrison, she was bound to be busy, but she still said she missed coming home to train with him.

It's been a long month... He stopped writing there, looking around to see if anybody else was around. What did others write to their family about? Did they tell them everything that happened, or only the good news? Did they open new letters with a stone of fear in their bellies?

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2018, 08:38:35 PM »
The boy from Jinae enjoyed afternoons like these.  Free from classes and with no examinations imminent, the cadets were free to spend their time as they pleased.  Some of the more diligent opted to study - indeed, Marco planned to bury his nose in his books later - while others ran laps around the barracks, strengthened their bodies and building their endurance.

For Marco, there was something else to be done, something very important indeed.  His purposeful footsteps carried him to the mess hall.  At this time, between meals, it became a quieter space, a place for cadets to gather to revise what they had learned in their lessons, or to write letters to home.  It seemed Marco wasn’t the only one planning on the latter for, as he walked along the rows between the tables, he noticed Axel bent over a sheet.  Then those grey eyes glanced up, flint meeting earth.

“Ah, I hope I didn’t disturb you,” Marco offered apologetically, a warm smile revealing the dimples in his cheeks.  His voice was lower than usual, having no wish to disturb the peppering of other cadets currently seated in the hall.  Bundled in his arms were a book, sheets of parchment, and clutched in his hand were several pencils.  “Mind if I join you?” He asked, nodding his head to the space opposite Axel.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2018, 06:36:39 PM »
Spotting Marco, the cadet blinked at him, and a second time as the boy spoke. The timing had been a coincidence, but he wouldn't have minded the other brunet cadet if he had interrupted. Though they had hardly spoken, their conversations thus far had shown that the boy was neither a threat or the sort to seek out annoying him. "You didn't," he replied, surprised at just how gentle and considerate Marco was. Others too. It confused him sometimes, but he did appreciate it.

He noticed the bundled equipment, supposing that he was going to study. Nothing to disturb his own thoughts, and perhaps he could learn something new or else get an extra nugget of revision in. "Not at all - pull up," he murmured, with a brief nod. A sheet of parchment had drifted over to the other side, so he slid it back onto his side.

"Studying?" he asked, eyes glancing at the book. Even though he used a book himself to ensure the wood grain didn't mess up his handwriting, given the others in the mess hall it seemed more probable. He knew one of their fellow cadets would never write out in the open, and those who did write out there seemed often secretive of their writing. He found it fine - it was only in reading letters that he preferred to be alone, in case there was any bad news.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2018, 11:02:08 PM »
Quiet relief coloured Marco’s freckled features.  “I’m glad,” he murmured, adjusting his grip on his papers, the sheets crinkling faintly.  With permission to sit, his face split with a grateful smile, and he promptly took a seat opposite the boy from Trost.  “Oh, no,” Marco began to answer as he relieved his arms of their bundled contents, looking a little sheepish.  Really, he ought to be studying, given his desire to ultimately serve in the Military Police, and the knowledge that his dream would only become reality if he secured a place within the top ten.  Marco had already accepted that he would never naturally be the strongest, or the most intelligent, of any group - which is why he had to push himself, why he had to review the notes he took in class and run laps with Jean.  He had to strive to be better.

But his own wishes could never be allowed to come at the cost of neglecting those he loved and held dear.

“When I enlisted, I promised my mother I would write to her as often as I could,” Marco explained plainly.  While other boys his age might balk at the thought of admittedly they wrote to their mothers of all people, the freckled cadet had no such qualms.  In fact, the adoring smile on his face indicated his fond feelings for his flesh and blood.  “I’m an only child, you see, and my father… well, he isn’t around.”  To indicate he harboured no hard feelings towards a man he had never known, he shrugged his shoulders, and calmly steered the conversation back to his comrade.  “What about you?” Marco asked, leaning an elbow on the table’s surface and casually resting his chin in the well of his hand.  He was mindful to keep his brown eyes trained on the Axel’s face, and off the pages laid bare, having no desire to pry into another’s affairs.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2018, 01:23:45 PM »
Axel took the initial answer as the other also intent on writing home, which was the next best guess after all. He wondered whether he should simply leave him be, to give him as much privacy as possible, though he felt that if Marco had truly wanted that, he would have found another place to go to write in peace.

As the other spoke of his promise to his mother, and of his family, his face softened. They were more alike than he'd thought. "I tried that, with my mother, at the start, but now we only write when it's needed, or there's enough to write about. She works, a lot - in the Garrison, so there's plenty to do." He hesitated, wondering if it would sound callous to say that he didn't see the point of writing so often, only when important events happen. But it was saving parchment too, not wasting any supplies.

"I'm an only child too. My father's gone as well. He died." There was a brutal simplicity to the statement, wanting to be clear that that was the reason he had no father, without wasting it on garnering too much sympathy. He didn't want that, he only wished to state it and keep it at that. There was no shame in not having one parent, and he didn't expect Marco to tell him about his story either.

Staring down at his parchment, he wondered how his mother would react if he said that he still dreamed of the day, barely days or maybe a week before the fall of Shiganshina, when he'd last seen his father. They rarely spoke of him, or of the distant relatives they'd lost that day. There was no need to reflect on it together, when the memory was enough to drive them onwards. A finger scratched at the table, lifting his mother's previous letter by the corner, and then he dropped it. No, he didn't need to tell her about that.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2018, 09:48:11 AM »
“The Garrison? Wow,” Marco’s interest was immediately apparent, both in the awed tone of his voice and in the widening of his brown eyes.  Jinae was a rural town with little military presence and most children were earmarked to become farmers from the day of their birth.  The height of his exposure to the military had been the occasional patrols run by the Military Police.  Those capable soldiers, beautifully turned out in their clean-cut uniforms, with their brilliant green emblems that - to Marco, at least - had always represented law, order, safety and security.

Before he could latch onto this line of conversation and ask Axel if, having come from a military family, he had known what to expect from training, there was a shift in direction, and the revelation that they had something in common.  “Oh,” Marco murmured, upon learning that Axel’s father was dead.  His freckled fingers pausing as they sifted through and organised his papers.  Amongst the collection was a bundle of letters bound together with twine, each in envelopes now dog-eared from the countless times they had been opened, their contents delighted in again and again.  What made them unique were the carefully inked illustrations of natural flora and fauna that adorned them; flowers, leaves, birds, butterflies.  These were Marco’s letters from his mother, and were amongst his most precious possessions.  He thought of how much he loved the woman who had birthed him, then thought of Axel’s loss of his father, and his heart broke for the stoic boy, who showed no sign of grief or any want of sympathy.  “I’m sorry,” Marco added after a pause, his apology twofold - firstly for Axel’s bereavement and secondly for bringing up the subject of fathers so carelessly.

“My father isn’t dead.  Or… maybe he is?”  Marco spoke softly now, as though the subject of deceased and absent sires was cause for reverence.  He shrugged - it was his own way of saying that he did not mourn a man he had never known - and lifted a pencil, rolling it thoughtfully between his fingertips.  “My parents were young and in love.  And unwed.  I think… I think the day my mother told him she was expecting me was the day the magic died.”  Another shrug, this one accompanied by a small, sorrowful smile.  His mother would say differently, that the day she realised was with child was the day the magic began, that he was the greatest gift she could ever have hoped to receive.  Even after all these years, the diligent and loving apothecary had strived - and succeeded - in being both parents to Marco, ensuring he never wanted for anything.  Never had she resented her son, for costing her the handsome, freckled man who had promised her the very world.

But perhaps Axel would prefer they did not speak of such things.  Peace did not come easily, and death was so much more final and absolute.  Marco had room to dream about his father if he so chose, but for the grey-eyed boy sitting across from him, there was no escaping the brutal reality.  “We’re lucky, I suppose,” Marco added thoughtfully, after a pause, now gazing down at the expanse of unblemished parchment before him, waiting to be etched with words.  “We still have someone to write home to.”

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2018, 03:12:55 AM »
Axel nodded, wondering if he should expand, but he chose not to. Being able to have stayed nearby Trost District that first year had been good, allowing him to not just be able to look to the Wall and know it was safe, but to be able to be there if it wasn't. If something happened, it had felt good to know he might be able to help save his home. Further away from Trost, he had a similar feeling, but it wasn't quite as strong.

Shaking his head, he was quick to respond to Marco's reaction to his father's state. "Don't. It happened - it's passed. Others have lost so much more than me. I know that he died - others don't always get that knowledge." He'd seen it, working with his father's assistant after the Wall fell, after news was carried home that someone had seen his father die. Axel remembered every detail he'd eavesdropped on, but it didn't affect him quite as much as seeing others still not sure of their family's fate. People had lost more than family. They'd lost every shred of home.

Despite the lingering, depressive thought, he was thankful for a window into Marco's life. Grey eyes fixed on the boy, gentle and respectful. To not know the fate of his father was something he dreaded. Yet Marco seemed to accept it well enough. "Sometimes, I suppose it doesn't work out... fear can hold you back even from things you love," he murmured. "Even if that's not why he isn't around... at least you still have your mother." He stopped, realising he didn't even know what Marco's mother was like. If writing was a necessity rather than something out of love, he may well be offending him by even stating such a thing.

"I don't believe in luck," he confessed. "But I suppose, in a way... Others have lost so much more. Those from Wall Maria more than anybody. I can't imagine Trost falling. If it did..." He didn't want to go on. Jinae was south, wasn't it? If Trost fell, all of it fell, but Jinae would be among the first places affected. Perhaps they shouldn't dwell on that.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2018, 11:38:38 AM »
There was something stoic about Axel, something steady and mindful.  The boy had lost more than most but less than others, and he seemed to recognise that knowledge was a gift - even if that knowledge was something as terrible as his father being dead.  How awful.  Life could be so unfair.

Fear can hold you back even from things you love.

Marco tilted his dark head thoughtfully, finding wisdom in his comrade’s words.  That very sentiment would linger insidiously in the dark corners of his mind, stepping to the forefront again in a couple of short years time.  Their conversation shifted, the freckled boy reminded of what a consolation his mother was - a woman so kind and hard-working that she had filled up any empty spaces his father had left.  “I do, that’s true!”  Marco’s response was genuinely cheerful, delight weaving its way into his young voice.  “My mother is… ah, she’s my hero.  She has the biggest heart anyone I know.”  Really, a teenage boy ought to hesitate before singing his mother’s praises, but Marco felt no such hesitation or prickle of shame.  The woman who had born and raised him, who had read him bedtime stories in her soft, musical voice and kissed his bruises, deserved only his unwavering love and admiration.

“We can’t let another Wall fall,” Marco murmured, his previous joy melting away into an expression much more solemn.  If he had to give his life in the defence of humanity, so be it.  Whatever they cost, they could not concede Wall Rose to the Titans.  The destruction and loss of life was genuinely unthinkable.  In that moment, Jinae did not enter his mind - his worry was for the faceless sea of people who would lose their homes and their hearts.  “But that’s why we’re here, isn’t it?  To join the military.  To serve, to protect.  Together, we can do something.”  The freckled boy smiled kindly at Axel, his pencil poised between his fingers but his unwritten letter going ignored for the time being.  There was no hurry, he had all afternoon.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2018, 11:29:01 AM »
The cheerfulness that radiated from the other boy was contagious, a smile spreading across his lips as he gazed on Marco. He was glad for those who had lost nothing, or had lost only things they had not already clung to. There was always that dark creep of sorrow when he thought of his father, a man so kind, who had taught him purpose, while his mother taught him ambition and skill. In all, Axel knew he had been honoured to be given such parents, and, to some degree, been raised in Trost. His interactions with the refugees had been difficult and trying, but they had reminded him of his father's wise words.

"Well, that explains you well then," he murmured, nodding to the boy. "You're one of the most gentle in voice and kindest in heart here." It was true, Marco stood out in his mind as one of those soft-hearted, though not in cowardice or weakness. No, every interaction with the other seemed so ultimately positive, it was almost unreal that, to his memory, he'd never seen him lose his temper. Axel lost his own plenty of times, perhaps too often, and yet, despite all the trials they'd gone through thus far.

Grey eyes settled on the smile following Marco's words. "You're right," he agreed, "We're going to do things. I bet every cadet like us thinks that, and maybe they make a few changes, but we're the first since Wall Maria fell. Forgetting those who were evacuated, we all have a larger stake in this. We have to make a difference, we have to fight back harder than any before." Every hand had to be ready to hold up the Walls physically if it had to be done. There needed to be a means of fighting back harder than those soldiers before them, and they needed to work out exactly how to improve things. Or work out what to improve most pressingly.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2019, 05:01:29 PM »
The kind words came unexpectedly. Sincerity laced Axel's voice, indicating this was no idly made compliment, and Marco's face split with a warm, surprised smile. "Ah, that's a nice thing to say," he remarked gratefully, dipping his head shyly. A gentle voice and kind heart might not be the most desirable traits in a cadet, or a soldier, but they were attributes Marco valued immensely - and he was genuinely delighted to think Axel thought of him in such a way.

Determination burned bright in Axel's stormy grey eyes, and Marco had the distinct impression he was sitting across from a boy who would leave a mark on the world - one way or another, and no matter which regiment he chose to join. "That's what I want, more than anything," Marco agreed, finding both Axel's enthusiasm and resolve contagious. "To make a difference, to do good, to serve." It hadn't occurred to the freckled cadet, at least not in a conscious, apparent way, that their intake was different to those that had come before. The catastrophic loss of Wall Maria had shown them all what happened, and what was lost, when the Walls were not adequately defended. Though what could be done to protect them from a 200 foot tall Titan? If the rumours were to be believed…

Despite his darkening thoughts, a hint of a smile lingered on Marco's lips as he wrote the words Dear Mother at the top of his page, in meticulously neat and delicate handwriting. "I imagine you're better prepared for training than most of us, what with your mother being in the Garrison." Having at least addressed his letter, he paused, focus shifting back to the cadet across from him. "Did she have any advice? Besides working hard, I mean."

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2019, 02:05:46 AM »
Marco's reaction was as expected - polite, restrained, genuine. Sometimes he couldn't believe a person could be so nice and honest in their expressions, let alone continue that. He was sure Marco had his own moments, but comparably... the boy was a delight. And it was very odd to think that, yet he did - Marco made him feel like he should do better, to be better, to live up to him. Perhaps that was why he felt calmer around him.

"You will," he said, certain of it. "They'll be talking about Marco Bott making a difference for years to come." Perhaps that was an exaggeration of sorts, but at the same time he could believe it. He didn't expect to forget the boy - already, he felt the impact of his presence. It was almost like his uncle, his mother, his family - he'd hear from Garrison soldiers back in Trost about their impact, what they remembered of the deceased, what they expected his uncle and mother to go on to do. He couldn't escape their reputation. Nor did he wish to.

The topic of his mother was even raised by Marco. He smiled. "I guess so. I've been around the military some way or another my whole life," he confirmed, feeling that familiar pride warm his heart. "She taught me a lot - my uncle too, when he visits. He's stationed in Utopia," he informed him, "but he's in the Garrison too. They've always told me to work hard, but they've taught me a lot about expectations and how to manage your own too. I want to be the best, doesn't everybody? But it's about the best you can be in yourself. Not outdoing others... Competing with yourself."

He slipped the boy an almost sheepish smile. "I'm not so good at not competing with others. But it's true. If I don't work hard at growing stronger, I won't meet my own expectations. I need to be just as good as my family. Better, if I can." Granted, he put too much pressure on himself at times, but he knew he was expected to do just that. Excel, fly above the rest, like a true Falkenrath.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2019, 07:12:11 PM »
They'll be talking about Marco Bott making a difference for years to come.

Marco blinked in surprise, chuckling low and shy as he scuffed the back of his neck with a freckled hand. Somehow, the thought of any sort of renown was almost embarrassing. He was too… nice to be made for greatness. And he meant that in the sense that nice was often synonymous with bland or predictable. "Oh, I don't know," Marco murmured, smiling faintly, touched by Axel's kindness and enthusiasm. People were more likely to remember how someone made them feel, rather than anything they had done or said, right? That was good enough for him, if he could only bring the world a little happiness and encouragement. "It just… it takes many pairs of hands to turn the wheel, you know? I'm just happy to help."

The letter went forgotten once more, Marco listening closely as Axel told him of his family and their military connections. The freckled cadet was genuinely interested, and sincerely impressed. They had led very different lives. To him, a boy from Jinae in south Wall Rose, even Utopia felt like half a world away. "Your mother is right, I think. Doing and being your best is the most important thing," Marco agreed, tilting his head thoughtfully. "Competition can be ugly, when there's too much one-upmanship." He paused, hoping Axel wouldn't think that was a comment directed at him. The boy was undoubtedly driven and determined, but there was nothing nasty or corrosive in his competitiveness. It all seemed based on a genuine desire to improve and to be the very best he could be.

"My feeling is that you'll meet your expectations. Exceed them, even. Your family must already be very proud of you." How could they be anything to the contrary, when their boy had entered the Training Corps of his own volition, brave and eager and capable? Axel's sheepish smile was answered by one that was warm and steady. "Do you think you will join them? Your family. In the Garrison, I mean…" Marco hesitated a little, finding the subject of preferred regiments bordering close to intrusive. Besides, it was no secret that Axel considered the Survey Corps a viable option. "It's early days yet, I know," Marco added, so that Axel could easily shut down this line of conversation if he desired.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2019, 06:32:11 PM »
"You're right. But sometimes one person can make a difference," he countered. From everything he'd been hearing through other cadets, the 13th Commander was making such an impact that he was making a difference. Marco just felt like the sort who would do the same. As much as Axel disliked the Military Police, and how it had taken him a while to get around the idea of anybody wanting to join them and not being corrupt, he didn't feel Marco was the sort to turn around and join that corruption.

He really was nice.

And that was proved as Marco spoke, reminding him a little of his mother and uncle even. Of course the boy thought his mother was right - they didn't quite think alike, but they had the same kind of dedication in them. Perhaps not as strong, in terms of determined ambition, as Axel, but enough that they truly would dedicate themselves to the military. "I guess so. I get carried away sometimes." That sheepishness grew. "I just... people think it's a game. They don't take it seriously. I want to be at the very top to prove I can do it, because... I deserve it, you know? This is my life." He paused, giving thought to his next line, and lowered the passion in his voice so as not to offend him. "I want to have the satisfaction of turning down the Military Police, because it's not fair that they get nearly all of the best cadets. And I want to have the best shot at helping."

Whether he joined the Garrison or the Survey Corps.

"My family want me in the Garrison," Axel sighed. "But I think that's so there's less chance they'll lose me." He understood that. Losing so much family had been hard enough on him. His uncle had his own family, and his mother likely saw her squad as an extension of a family. But if he had to die, he'd rather do it where it mattered, than to just sit and wait until it hammered into him. "If I join the Garrison, I want to be on Trost's Wall and defend it. I want to take down the titans there before they can get in, and defend my home. But if I join the Survey Corps..." he trailed off. He had to give it more thought. Soldiers like Nanaba needed soldiers like him. Those who would take it seriously and fight to the very end, but who weren't caught up in the idea of sacrificing themselves either.

Not knowing what to say, he asked instead: "Do you know what you'll do if you don't make it to the top ten?" It seemed cruel to ask, perhaps, but he genuinely wanted Marco to consider it too. There was plenty of competition for those top spots. He wouldn't want to take Marco's place, not when he deserved it even more.

Re: Thoughts of home. [Marco]
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2020, 11:46:43 AM »
Axel wasn’t wrong, one person could make a difference.  Some even seemed born for greatness, possessing keen minds that crackled with world-changing ideas, or wells of courage so deep and wide that they wrote themselves into legend.  It was easy to believe Axel himself harboured such potential, though his motivations were far more noble than a desire for glory. There were good people too, who drifted through history nameless, whose kind deeds were smaller in scale and won no renown.  Marco was content to count himself among their number.

He listened closely as Axel spoke on and, for a moment, he had a sense of how young they both were, and how they stood on the cusp of something immense.  Those cadets who fooled around in class – much to Axel’s ire – were seemingly unaware of the precipice that loomed. And yet, almost as a counterpoint, Marco felt the fire in Axel’s words, a maturity born of loss and life experience.  It fuelled his dedication, his ambition, galvanising his good intentions and driving him on towards his goal.  Whichever regiment the boy from Trost chose, they would be lucky to have him.

As the passion in Axel’s voice was reined in – for his benefit, Marco was sure – he revealed his desire to deny the Military Police what they craved.  The freckled cadet couldn’t help but smile at that, though such defiance was alien to him.  His companion had a point though, about it being unfair.  The best soldiers retreated behind Wall Sina, while the rest served their time on and beyond the Walls.

There would be a certain poetry in Axel defending his home district, the boy from Jinae felt, while the mention of the Survey Corps triggered a familiar bloom of concern.  Axel was immensely capable, but plenty of talented scouts lost their lives between the teeth of Titans.  There was little time to dwell on this sobering thought, however, the question that followed catching Marco off-guard. It was the first time it had been asked of him and he hesitated a moment, giving due consideration.

“I… I don’t, actually,” Marco admitted, finding it was his turn to look sheepish.  His earthy gaze dropped to the stretch of table between them, lest he see sharp shards of scrutiny in Axel’s eyes.  “I mean, the Garrison is the safer choice, obviously.”  Just as Axel himself had said, it would be his family’s preference for him, largely to minimise his chances of coming to harm.  And who could blame them for that, for wanting to keep their loved one as safe as possible? 

“My mother gave up everything to have me, to raise me. For her to make all those sacrifices and then be left with nothing…” Marco sighed, broad shoulders rounding beneath the weight of familial responsibility.  How many other parents had suffered the incomprehensible loss of an only child?  And why should they pay that terrible price while he protected his own small, fractured family of two?  His focus fell to the familiar constellations of freckles that speckled the backs of his hands, guilt gnawing at him.  “That doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to die – I am – I wouldn’t have enlisted if I wasn’t certain of that.  I just… I want to make my life count for something.  If I truly thought I could make a difference within the Survey Corps, I’d wear the Wings of Freedom tomorrow.”  He paused, grazing his bottom lip worriedly with his teeth.  This was a line of conversation that could easily alienate him from the majority of his fellow cadets, Axel included.

“But the truth is Axel, my heart is pretty well set on the Military Police, despite its flaws,” Marco continued, finally looking up, brown eyes meeting grey.  He knew that his ambitions put him in the company of other cadets with more selfish motivations, and it was inevitable that people who didn’t know him would simply assume that Marco Bott was cut from the same cloth.  “I just have to believe that it can be better, that it can be improved, that it can truly stand for fairness and order.  The regiment won’t ever change if it’s flooded with self-serving soldiers, by people who are prepared to twist the system for their own gain or who aspire to get fat on the hard work of others. The duties might be mundane and bureaucratic, but I believe they can be honourable.”  That didn’t mean the work of the Survey Corps and Garrison was any less essential and, concerned that Axel might think this was what he was implying, Marco quickly ploughed on. 

“Reclaiming Wall Maria is important, vital even – and who knows what wonders wait to be discovered beyond the Walls – but I struggle to put those goals ahead of the needs of the people who are here, ahead of people who deserve justice and stability.  The Military Police should provide that, they should be a symbol of safety within the Walls.  Just as the Garrison defends us all, just as the Survey Corps have pushed the boundaries of the known world and now hope to retake Wall Maria.  I think that’s the point, isn’t it?  The three factions ought to work together for the good of the people.” That was why it was called military service, he supposed.

The weight of their conversation was palpable, and he almost regretted that they had sunk their teeth into such a heavy subject.  “I know I must sound naïve.  I know there’s a risk that I’ll end up stuck at a desk, filing endless reports, and then just like that – ” Marco snapped his fingers to emphasise his point, “ – thirty years will have passed and I’ll have achieved little to nothing.  But I have to try.”  They could only do their best, and manage their expectations – just like Axel’s mother advised. 

“I’m sorry,” Marco’s voice was lower now, tinged with regret.  “You asked a simple question, and I punished you with a long-winded answer.  If… if I don’t make the cut, I’ll reflect on whatever skills I’ve scraped together, and I’ll go where I’m most needed.” A quiet, vaguely embarrassed chuckle rose in his throat, and he lifted a pen, fidgeting with it, if only to occupy his hands. “I should have just answered with that in the first place.”


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