Lore:Casualties

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Casualties is a one-shot canon songfic in the Clouded Horizons series' Eighth Realm. The story is set at an undisclosed time, and is accompanied by the song "Just A Dream" by Carrie Underwood.

Story

Seven fourty-two AM on August 24, 2153.

Eighteen-year old Noriko Hirayama would never forget that day.

It was two weeks after the day she turned eighteen
All dressed in white
Going to the church that night

Her car drove silently down the streets to the Estharian church that she had been told to attend, for an event she never considered possible. She could feel tears falling from her eyes even as she drove down the moonlit streets, but she didn't care.

She had his box of letters in the passenger seat,
Six pence in her shoe
Something borrowed, something blue...

Absently, she glanced over at the silver-finished, metal case that was on the seat beside her, as well as the bouquet of expensive flowers she had bought. All she had left now, she knew. Memories, feelings, words...now nothing more than bits of paper that spelled out things she once looked at with happiness and eagerness.

Her car slowly pulled into the large churchyard, where she could see dozens of other cars and vehicles of all sorts parked with people congregating near the doors to the large, domed church. Trying to compose herself, she wiped the tears from her reddening eyes and picked up the bouquet as she stepped out of her car, walking slowly towards the entrance to the building as if every step was one step closer to death.

In a way, to her, it was.

And when the church doors opened up wide, she put her veil down, trying to hide the tears
Oh, she just couldn’t believe it
She heard the trumpets from the military band and the flowers fell out of her hands...

Ahead of her, the doors to the church opened as she began to climb the stairs, pulling the veil attached to her white dress over her face as she climbed. She didn't want anyone to see her like this, despite everything that had happened. More tears streamed from her eyes beneath the veil as she heard the sounds of music from the assembled military band inside the church, and the flowers fell weakly from her hands to the stone steps as she sobbed into her hands.

Baby, why'd you leave me, why'd you have to go?
I was counting on forever, now I'll never know
I can't even breathe...
It's like I'm looking from a distance, standing in the background
Everybody's saying, "He's not coming home now,"
This can't be happening to me
This is just a dream...

Noriko sat down on one of the pews closest to the front, where a casket was laid out with flowers, wreathes, and pictures surrounding it in its entirety. She almost couldn't bear to look at it, knowing who it contained.

"Miss Hirayama?" a voice said quietly from beside her, prompting Noriko to look up into the eyes of a man with a short, military haircut, a black suit, and a scar crossing the length of his right hand. "I'm Commander Daniel Margulis of the Estharian Armed Forces. I offer you my greatest condolences for your loss...he was a good man. He saved his entire squad with his quick thinking. Seven other men might not be here if not for your fiancé's actions."

Noriko knew that the older man's words were sincere and truthful, but it did nothing to ease her feelings as she sat alone on the church pew. The man slowly walked away, realizing that the girl wanted nothing more than to be alone in her sorrow, and Noriko wiped tears from her eyes again as the music ceased, the church preacher stepping up to the pulpit at the front as everyone took their seats.

The preacher man said, "Let us bow our heads and pray,
Lord, please lift his soul and heal this hurt."
Then the congregation all stood up and sang the saddest song that she ever heard...

The sounds of singing slowly faded from the church as several gathered officers from the Estharian military stood to attention at the front of the church, led by Margulis. The Commander strode over to the front of the casket and took up a folded Estharian flag, along with a medal that was lying atop it before walking towards Noriko.

"Noriko Hirayama...it is with my deepest sympathies that I bestow this Estharian White Star upon your late fiancé, Lieutenant Kyoshi Okasawa. The entire nation of Esthar thanks him for his service and his sacrifice."

Then they handed her a folded up flag and
She held on to all she had left of him and what could’ve been...

As Margulis handed her the flag and medal, Noriko swallowed hard, trying to fight back another wave of tears that threatened to fall. He saluted her then, an action that was followed in unison by the other gathered military officers at the front, and everyone present stood from their seats as the pallbearers began to carry the casket from the church for burial.

And then guns rang one last shot and it felt like a bullet in her heart...

Noriko stepped out of the oaken doors of the church after the casket, still holding back tears as she watched the procession. Several soldiers outside had taken up rifles and another officer in front began to issue orders to them as Noriko watched the casket...her life...slowly taken away from her. The sounds of gunshots rang in the nighttime sky, and Noriko found herself unable to hold back the grief any longer.

Baby, why'd you leave me, why'd you have to go?
I was counting on forever, now I'll never know
I can't even breathe...
It's like I'm looking from a distance, standing in the background
Everybody's saying, "He's not coming home now,"
This can't be happening to me
This is just a dream...

The casket had been buried, and Noriko was walking silently back to her car to leave when a soldier in uniform stopped her, no older than she with short cropped, dark hair and a boyish face that made him look straight out of high school.

"You're...Miss Hirayama?" he asked, and she weakly nodded. "I was...one of the people in Lieutenant Okasawa's squad. I'd be dead right now if not for him...he was braver than anyone I've ever known."

Something inside Noriko shifted as the young boy spoke, and she stayed silent for what seemed like hours before she finally uttered two words.

"Thank you."

Noriko watched the soldier go with a newfound sense of peace inside her. She knew that her fiancé hadn't given his life in vain. He'd given it to offer hope and peace to a generation that had yet to face the trials of life. That kind of sacrifice, she realized, no matter how much it pained her to do so...

She could live with.

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