Sorry this has taken so long... been very IRL busy. Hopefully the wait for the next chapter isn't as long!
It's time to see what the Academy gang have been up to on their summer break... Training, eating ice cream, and... meeting celebrities?
Chapter 6: Strength Recognises Strength
July 15th, 2252, 2. Kingsguard Soldier Academy – Outdoor Training Area. The summer sun is beating down on the Kingsguard Academy.
“Sorry. I was eating.”
“Tch. Typical. The guys aren’t here, either.”
Bell stood up and walked over to greet Chirch.
“Well, if you’re here we can start warming up?” she suggested. Chirch nodded, and the girls started to run laps of the outdoor training area.
“How’s your summer break been so far?” Bell asked.
“I’ve been training with Rose for most of it.” Chirch answered. “Yours?”
“I went back home for a week, but I had to be here to train. You haven’t been home?”
“Well, I could have… but I’d be alone there.” Chirch replied.
Hearing this saddened Bell. “Are your family busy?”
“Since my grandma died last year, I’ve been alone.” Chirch answered casually. “Well, besides the people in my village who helped look after me.”
Bell fell silent. Was there anything she could say to this?
“Have you seen Onato recently?” Chirch asked.
“Oh, umm… not since your fight with Fourth.” Bell answered. “I think he’s coming back to school today, though.”
“I’m surprised you guys all came back so early.” Chirch commented. “Summer break lasts until the start of September.”
“Well, thanks to your showcase performance, we can’t afford to take time off.” Bell complained. “Otherwise you’ll totally leave us in the dust.”
Chirch laughed. “Come on. You guys are really strong too.”
“That’s not the point.”
As the girls finished their second lap, Onato and Fourth arrived.
“Yo. Sorry we’re late.”
“Took your time, didn’t you?” Bell moaned. “Jeez. We should make you do a punishment exercise.”
“Whatever punishment you name, we will accept it.” Fourth replied.
“What are you, a samurai?” Onato joked. “It’s just a light group training session.”
“… Oh.” The words “light training” didn’t seem to register in Fourth’s mind.
“Fourth! I’m glad you came.” Chirch said, smiling. “You took forever to reply to my text.”
“Any opportunity to train should be taken.” Fourth replied. “Besides. If I slack off, I’ll fall even further behind.”
“Man, we really need to get you to lighten up, Mr. Bushido.” Bell joked.
“I’m surprised you’re not training with Rose today.” Onato said to Chirch. “I heard she’s been here all summer too.”
“Oh. Her dad’s in town, so she’s spending the day with him.” Chirch answered.
“Rio Em Rose is in town?!” the group replied, loudly and excitedly.
“Oh yeah. He’s been here for a couple days. He’s real nice.” Chirch replied nonchalantly.
“YOU MET RIO EM ROSE?”
Chirch nodded. “He bought me dinner last night. We had an eating contest. I won.” Chirch laughed innocently.
“What’s he like?” Onato asked excitedly.
“Is he as handsome in real life as he is in the photos?” Bell asked, eyes glowing with excitement.
“Did he share any training tips?” Fourth asked, his usual stoic armour cracking with curiosity.
Chirch thought for a moment. “He didn’t really want to talk about fighting. He just kept asking Rose about the boys in her class and stuff. Kinda like a normal dad, I guess? I dunno.”
The group were stunned into silence. “That’s such a normal answer… But then I guess there’s more to life than being a soldier.” Onato replied thoughtfully.
“Hey… do you think Rose would let us meet him?” Bell asked. “I’d like to meet him and pick his brains, even if he is a total dork.”
“I can text her and ask, I guess…” Chirch replied. “But I don’t think she likes it that much when people do that.”
“That’s understandable.” Onato replied.
“We should probably get back to warming up, right?” Chirch asked.
Remembering why they’d met up in the first place, the group started their training session.
5. Kingsguard Soldier Academy – Outdoor Training Facility.
As the timer the group had set sounded, they made their way back to the bleachers, drenched in sweat. Reaching for their water bottles and towels, they dried their sweat and re-hydrated.
“Man… we should have just trained indoors. This heat isn’t letting up one bit.” Onato said between heavy breaths.
“This is good training.” Fourth replied, wiping the sweat from his brow. “Hot weather training is good for discipline.”
“Yeah. Besides, if there’s a bot attack in the summer, we’ll have to fight in the heat. We should get used to it while we can.” Bell added, spraying water on her face to cool down.
“I really want ice cream… it’s so hot.” Chirch commented, seemingly less bothered by the heat than the others as she sat on the grass drinking water.
“You seem totally fine, though.” Onato replied enviously.
“Ice cream would be great, actually… should we go get some in town?” Bell asked the group.
“Please. I’m dying over here.” Onato answered.
“That sounds like fun.” Chirch replied. “It’s kinda hot.”
“How about you, Fourth?” Bell asked.
“Sure, why not. I don’t think I have the energy for evening training, anyway.” Fourth answered.
“Have we completed all our matchups for today, Onato?” Bell asked.
Onato pulled out the matchup chart he had made for the day’s training session. “The last fight was me and Bell against Chirch and Fourth, so… yeah. We’re done. Thank god.”
Bell breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Phew. I don’t think I’ve got any more fight left in me. I think Fourth bruised my rib…”
“Sorry about that.” Fourth replied. “Chirch kicked me in to you.”
“In a 2-on-2, the best way to win is to take them both out at once.” Chirch replied proudly.
“You realise there’s two people on your side as well, right?” Onato asked.
“Haha… it took me a while to work that one out. I’m not used to fighting in pairs.” Chirch answered sheepishly.
“You fought pretty well with Fourth, though.” Bell commented. “That was the only fight where you didn’t get in the way of your partner all the time.”
“That took a lot of effort on my part.” Fourth answered. “She’s very difficult to match up with.”
“Match up with?” Onato asked.
Fourth nodded. “Forming a strategy with a fighter like Chirch is impossible. The best way to work with a partner like that is to watch how they move and plan your attacks accordingly.”
“That sounds kinda difficult. I don’t think I could ever do that.” Chirch laughed nonchalantly.
“It was at first.” Fourth answered. “You’re completely all over the place. But because you’re so all over the place, you make a fantastic shield. I could attack undetected most of the time.”
“What a back-handed compliment.” Bell joked.
“Still, it’s really impressive that you managed to use a strategy like that. You must be really used to watching fights.” Onato replied.
“Heh. Thanks.” Fourth said, a half-smile creeping onto his face.
“Anyway. It’s time for ice cream!” Chirch announced. “But we should probably shower first…”
7. Kingston City Centre – Cosmo’s Gelateria. The first-year quartet are getting ice cream.
“Man, this really hits the spot!” Bell said, a cheesy grin on her face. “And the air conditioning feels great after the day we’ve had.”
“I hope I don’t get sunburn.” Onato added.
“With the amount of sunscreen you used, I think you’ll be fine.” Fourth replied.
“You owe me a bottle of sunscreen, by the way.” Bell grumbled.
“Hey, Bell. Let me try some of that blue ice cream you got.” Chirch said eagerly.
“If you wanted it, you should have just got some.” Bell replied.
“That’s not fair. Come on, I’ll let you try some of mine…”
As the girls argued over their ice cream, Fourth noticed two people enter the gelateria. He quickly tapped Chirch on the shoulder.
“Hey Chirch, isn’t that…”
“… Oh! Hey! Rose! Mr. General Em Rose!” Chirch shouted, waving at Rose and her father.
“Ha ha ha. She’s a loud one, isn’t she, Shiira?”
Rose waved at the group and walked over. “Hey. Sorry we’re a little late. I hope you don’t mind if my dad joins us?”
Bell, Onato and Fourth shook their heads. Standing up, they bowed to Rose’s father.
“It’s an honour to meet you, General Em Rose.”
Rio Em Rose laughed heartily. “Ha ha! So well mannered. Please, call me Rio.”
“Yes, Mr. Rio, Sir!”
“I’m gonna get some ice cream. Do you want your usual, Daddy?” Rose asked Rio.
Rio gave a thumbs up. “Sounds great to me.”
As Rose headed to the counter, Rio pulled up a chair with the young soldiers, three of whom had stars in their eyes.
“So Chirch. Are you going to introduce me to your friends?” Rio asked.
“Oh, yeah. This is Bell, Onato and Fourth. Bell and Onato are in my class, and Fourth is in Class 2 but he joined us for training today. They’re real strong.”
“Ha ha ha! I can tell just by looking at them.” Rio replied. “You look like you’ve been working hard today.”
Bell, Onato and Fourth tried their hardest to keep their excitement in. Their idol, the hero they had looked up to for so long had praised them so readily.
“We still have a long way to go.” Fourth replied, somewhat more nervously than usual.
“Well of course. You’re all still young.” Rio answered.
“H-how long will you be in town, Rio?” Onato asked.
“I’m here for another couple of days, but I’m mainly here on business.” Rio answered. “I’m doing some work with Kingston University.”
As Rio talked with the young students, Rose made her way back to the table with their ice cream.
“Wonderful! Thank you, dear.” Rio grinned. As he ate his first spoonful of ice cream, he breathed a satisfied sigh. “Man. That really hits the spot. It’s been so hot today.”
“How was training, guys?” Rose asked.
“Hot.” Onato answered.
“Sweaty.” Bell replied.
“It was fun.” Chirch answered. “We did 2v2 fights.”
“You’d be a nightmare to have as a partner.” Rose joked. The other first years all nodded knowingly.
“Oh! Speaking of fights. I heard the Rookie Showcase went well this year.” Rio added.
“I didn’t realise you had time to watch it?” Rose asked.
“I haven’t.” Rio answered. “But I have it on tape. Marko was telling me there were some interesting fights.”
“Wait, Marko?” Onato asked.
Rio nodded. “He was there. Didn’t you know?”
“THE Marko watched our fights?!” Bell replied, shocked.
“Wait… who’s Marko again?” Chirch asked. The other first years looked at her, shocked that Chirch didn’t know who they were talking about.
“Marko as in Captain Marko. The new member of the Kingsguard Elite.” Rose explained.
“Oh, that guy. Haven’t seen him on TV.” Chirch answered casually.
“He tends to avoid TV appearances.” Rio explained.
“Why would Captain Marko come and watch the Rookie Showcase?” Bell asked.
“Good question.” Rio answered. “Maybe he just felt like it? I don’t know. That kid’s a funny one. Ha ha ha!”
“By the way.” Fourth interjected. “I don’t know if you can answer this for me, Mr. Rio. But… how strong is Captain Marko? Nobody really knows much about him, but when you spoke to the press you sounded really confident in him.”
“Oh, that’s right. I announced his promotion, didn’t I…” Rio answered. “Well, let me put it this way. Even at my best, I wouldn’t want to face him. He’d probably have kicked the crap out of me. Ha ha ha!”
The students, Rose included, were stunned into silence.
“Seriously?” Onato replied.
“Definitely.” Rio answered.
“But I saw you two fight once, and you won?” Rose said, confused.
“Oh yeah. I did.” Rio replied. “But he let me win. Not that he’d admit it.”
“You’re just being modest, right?” Bell asked.
Rio laughed. “Ha ha ha! If only. That kid has been the real deal since day 1. I’m sure you all know about the early recruitment process the Academy runs?”
The students nodded.
“As you know, it’s rare for even a third year to be picked for early graduation. The ones who make it in early are considered generational talents, especially the soldiers. Marko was selected by recruiters during his first year at the Academy. He’s the only soldier in Kingsguard history to receive that honour.”
“I didn’t even realise recruiters looked at first years.” Bell replied.
“Normally, they don’t.” Rio replied. “But Director Stickman made it clear to the recruiters that he was one to watch. From what I’ve heard, they moved him to fight with the fourth years and machina pilots because his classmates were afraid to fight him. By the end of the year there was only a handful of people willing to spar with him.”
“Jeez… what a monster.” Onato commented.
“By the time he joined the Kingsguard, all the soldiers wanted a piece of him too.” Rio continued. “Every day, he’d get challenge after challenge. And amongst the thousands of fights he’s had… he’s only lost twice.”
“Seriously?!” Rose asked. “Even against the Kingsguard?”
“Back when Marko joined the Kingsguard, he was part of a group that’s considered to be the most talented bunch of recruits the Academy has produced. Even amongst a group like that, he’s considered as the top talent. Because he avoids public attention, not a lot of people know about him yet. But amongst the veteran soldiers that fought alongside him, he’s known as the Kingsguard’s Golden Boy.”
“Cool nickname.” Chirch commented.
“Ha ha ha. Don’t say it to his face though. He won’t like it.” Rio answered.
“Why tell us about Marko now?” Rose asked.
“Ah. That’s the other thing I wanted to discuss. You guys have to keep this secret until summer break is over, though.” Rio said. “The two Kingsguard representatives for early recruitment week in September were chosen today. One of them is an engineer, so I guess that shouldn’t bother you too much. The soldier they’ve chosen to send down… is Marko.”
Rose turned pale. “… Seriously?”
Rio nodded. “It’s unusual for them to send a member of the Elite down, but apparently that’s the choice that was made. The engineer they’ve chosen, Arthur Grinnington, is one of the Elite as well.”
“It’s going to be tough to get selected this year, then…” Rose lamented. “How am I supposed to impress someone with a reputation like his?”
“I’m telling you this now, so you don’t get nervous later.” Rio explained. “You have nothing to worry about. Strength recognises strength. And knowing the kind of person he is, I think he’ll have a unique eye for talent. Just focus on the basics, and you’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.” Rose replied, deep in thought.
“You’ll be fine, Rose.” Chirch said, looking her training partner in the eye. “If anyone’s gonna impress him, it’ll be you.”
Rose smiled. “How reassuring of you.”
“Oh, and first years, make sure you get as much advice from him as possible while he’s at the Academy. You won’t get a chance like this every year.” Rio added.
September 1, 2252. 8. A train heading to Kingston, from the nation’s capital. Two men sit opposite each other at a table in a private carriage.
“May I get you both some coffee?” asked the young server.
“Please. I’ll take mine black.” Arthur Grinnington replied.
“I’ll have a cappuccino, please.” Marko answered.
As the server prepared their coffee, the men sat, a tense silence filling the air. As the server placed their coffee cups on the table, the men thanked her as she moved to the next carriage.
“I can’t believe you’d drag me out to go watch some kids play with swords for a week.” Grinnington grumbled. “Especially after last time.”
“I didn’t ask you to come.” Marko replied.
“Why are you so interested in this, anyway? It’s not like you to care about other people.”
Although he hadn’t had his first sip of coffee yet, Marko could feel his heart rate increasing. “I could ask you the same thing. Don’t you have toys to build?”
“They’re not toys. They’re state of the art weapons.” Grinnington replied, his face twitching.
“Any weapon that breaks that easily isn’t a weapon. It’s a toy.” Marko replied.
“Why don’t I slit your throat with one of them and see if you still think it’s a toy afterwards?” Grinnington asked tauntingly.
Marko sighed and stood up. “It’s too early in the morning for this.”
Before Grinnington could retort, Marko went to sit at a table on the opposite end of the carriage. As he did, Grinnington chuckled smugly to himself.
“Oh ho ho ho… it looks like I win this round.”
Rio Em Rose (named after godmin riofriz) - a legend of the KGVerse.