Part 3

Kije was dressed in black as she walked further from town. As the buildings faded away, a lonely cemetery came into view. Following Bols's death, Kije had brought her daughter to his grave every day. As time passed, the intervals between the cemetery visits became wider and wider. Kije hoped her family would soon be able to move on, but recent events had opened old wounds. When Logue ran away, Kije looked everywhere and asked everyone she knew for help, but no one had heard from her. What people had heard of, was the fight between the Revolutionaries and the National Legion which had left several dead. Kije prayed her daughter had nothing to do with it. Feeling alone and heartbroken, Kije returned to her husband's grave to feel close to him. When she arrived, Kije was shocked to see the cemetery filled with young men in green uniforms. Ice filled the widow's veins as she drew nearer, seeing the Greenshirts lay offerings at one of the graves. One Greenshirt with a long beard was giving a speech.

"Here lies the champions of the old order — those who gave their lives to punish the ones who would betray our homeland to savage tribes. There is no higher service than to punish the treacherous, yes, even defending against foriegn enemies cannot compare to the glory of giving a turncoat divine justice. The first and fiercest punishment ought to fall first on the traitor, second on the enemy. If I had but one bullet and I were faced by both an enemy and a traitor, I would let the traitor have it."

Upon seeing Kije, Carpathia smiled and outstretched his hand to her, saying, "And here arrives the widow of the man we come here to honor. The wife of the Jaeger Bols has graced us with her presence." At this, the Legionnaires faced Kije, performed the outstretched-fist salute, and chanted, "All hail the Empire!"

The ice in Kije's veins turned to fire as her face turned red with anger. It was all too much.

"Oh shut up with that nonsense!" she shouted.

The Legionnaires were stunned, but Carpathia quickly composed himself.

"My lady, we only mean to honor. . ."

"I know what you mean! You mean to use my husband's grave as a stepping stone to power! None of you know anything about Bols, or what he fought for! Do you know why he always wore that mask? It was because he hated himself over what the Empire forced him to do! Every execution, every destroyed village, tore at him! When we married, I hoped one day people would see my husband as the loving man he really was, not the monster the Empire wanted him to be! But even in death, people like you twist his legacy into something he never wanted! To me, Bols wasn't some cartoonish mascot for propaganda posters! He was a real man, a man who loved others, who couldn't love himself, but had a family that loved him all the same!"

Kije's voice went hoarse as she expelled her anger. Hot tears went down her cheeks, but at this point, she didn't care. Her husband was dead, her daughter was missing, and this insult was the last straw. The Legionnaires had the decency to look ashamed of themselves, except for Carpathia, who glared daggers at the widow. Kije stood her ground, unwilling to let the bearded man make her feel unwelcome at her own husband's grave. After a tense moment, Mel told the other Greenshirts, "The lady's right. We shouldn't be here." Carpathia gritted his teeth, incensed at being undermined by a follower. But when the men started to follow Mel back to town, Carpathia knew the only way to save face was to go with them. Carpathia walked away from Kije, but not before shooting her one last hateful glare.

Logue knew it was safest to hide and wait until someone could confirm that things had calmed down on the outside. But after nearly forty hours of hiding in the basement of the Legion HQ, her desperation overpowered her caution. At sunset, when Carpathia and the many of the other Legionnaires were gone, Logue borrowed a hooded jacket and slipped out of the building. Even though few people were out at the time, Logue kept her head down and her hood up as she walked home. As she traveled, she came across a few posters by pro-revolution groups. The posters displayed the face of the man she had killed at the rally, with the words, "This is Horst Albright - martyred by reactionaries!" Logue scoffed, wondering if the reds would still lionize him if they knew what kind of man he was in private - the kind whose gang would assault a lone small girl. Then she found herself thinking of her own father. In private, Bols was the gentlest man in the world, but that wasn't the face Bols could show in public. All of a sudden, Logue found herself rethinking the judgments she made about those who had bad mouthed the Incineration Squad. This new train of thought took up so much of the girl's focus that Logue didn't notice when she had arrived at home. Looking up, she saw two men in police uniforms talking. Terror gripped Logue, and she couldn't move away. All her fears had come true, the police had traced her to the rally and had come to arrest her. Why else would the police be at her house? One of the officers stopped speaking and noticed her. He began to walk towards the terrified girl while his partner followed close behind.

"Excuse me, Miss, do you live here."

"No, why?" Logue replied, a bit too hastily.

"Well, there was a break in and we were hoping someone from around here saw something."

"A break in? Is mom ok?" Logue blurted out.

"Mom? I thought you said. . ."

Logue didn't wait for the officer to finish speaking. She rushed past the men through the open door to her home. Immediately upon entry, she saw something covered by a white sheet. Her heart raced as she approached, before pulling back the sheet. What followed was a scream that echoed throughout the house as Logue stared at the face of her mother. She was barely recognizable, with her forehead and hair awash in blood. Bits of skull were exposed at the wound. Logue wanted to look away, but something prevented her from turning her head. A hand lightly touched her shoulder, causing her to pull back in surprise. Logue turned around and saw the police looking down at her with looks of pity.

"I am truly sorry for your loss, Miss, but if you know anything about who would have done this. . ."

Logue searched her mind, but couldn't think of anyone who would hurt her mother. Kije was always kind to everyone, she had no enemies. Then it dawned on Logue that she had made enemies. Did someone from a pro-Revolutionary gang kill her mother because of what happened at the rally? Logue felt certain that this was all her fault. The police tried to get a lead from her, but Logue could only ball over her mother. For the first time in her life, Logue was completely alone.

The funeral was held two days later. It didn't take long for the coroner to decide that the cause of death was blunt force trauma, but no one could find the culprit. Logue couldn't afford the funeral by herself, so Logue had to ask the Legion for help. Carpathia "generously" offered to cover all expenses. Of course, this meant that Carpathia had the final say in how the funeral would be done. Kije's coffin was draped in the Legion's flag, a Partas Cross on a green field. The funeral procession was flanked by rows of marching Legionnaires, supposedly as protection against pro-Revolutionary demonstrators. And demonstrators there were. For hours, Logue had to endure heckling from men in red headbands, shouting out words like "murderer" and "Imperial whore" at her mother. Logue could do nothing but keep her head down and grit her teeth. The protestors eased off when the procession finally arrived at the cemetery. Kije was to be buried with her husband, as she would have wanted. But first, there were eulogies to be given. After everyone had taken a seat, Carpathia stood up. He prepared to take the podium when Mel blocked his path.

"Sir, shouldn't Logue have the first words? She's the one who's grieving today," Mel asked.

"We are all grieving the loss of a patriot today," Carpathia replied, "And Logue will give her eulogy. I just need to officially start the proceedings."

Carpathia took the podium and thanked everyone who came. He reminded everyone that they were there to honor a great woman who loved the Empire, married a hero, and was cut down by the same Revolutionary Army that slew her husband. He then launched into a speech about loyalty, justice, martyrdom, and the like. Logue supposed it would be a beautiful speech, but she could not be bothered to listen and find out. She was too occupied with seething in her chair, grief and anger wrestled for her attention. Logue hated Carpathia, the Legion, and the Revolutionaries for their roles in taking her parents away from her and then making it all a spectacle. Above all, she hated herself. Logue was shaken from her thoughts by shouts of "All hail the Empire!" that washed over her like a storm. Logue took that to mean that Carpathia had finally shut up and was receiving his ovation. The bearded commandant then invited Logue to speak about her mother. Logue was divided. She wasn't sure if she had the will to speak, let alone the desire to speak to these people. She turned towards Mel, who reassuringly mouthed "You can do this." Logue made up her mind. Most of the men here may not respect the dignity of the funeral, but that wouldn't stop her from honoring her mother's memory. Taking the podium from Carpathia, Logue addressed the crowd.

"My mother was the strongest woman I know. When dad died, she was all I had left. Even though she was hurting too, mom never stopped being there for me. Mom never used her grief as an excuse to hurt anyone, never saw herself as a victim. Mom was strong because she remained kind no matter how hard it got. She always loved me, and I. . . and I. . ."

Logue tried to say more, but found herself choking on her sobs. Mel walked her back to her seat, and did his best to comfort her as the funeral was wrapped up. Carpathia gave a few closing remarks, which were received with more salutes and slogans from the crowd. Only Logue and Mel abstained from the chants. After the Legionnaires in attendance had buried Kije, the Legion walked back home. Logue, not feeling safe alone in her house, followed them.

Logue stayed up that night, thinking over her options. Carpathia had told her that she could stay as long as she needed, after all, "The Legion looks after its own." That Logue would be kicked out the moment she was no longer useful to Carpathia's agenda did not need to be said. Logue had little money, with most of her family's belongings being stolen in the same attack that killed her mother. Although it was ludicrous to try to survive on her own, Logue didn't want to spend one day more with the Legion. Then she remembered that her maternal grandparents lived in an isolated rural village. She didn't know if her grandparents still lived, but it was the only other choice she had. Logue wanted to be far away from the Capital, the Legion, and the political struggles that plagued the country. With luck, Logue would find her relatives and they would take her in. If they were dead or wouldn't accept her, Logue would find some other way to provide for herself. Having made up her mind, Logue got out of bed and sneaked through the Legion headquarters. As she passed the entrance to the basement, Logue remembered the shrine to the Jaegers. Although the girl had not known her father's old comrades, she was sure they deserved someone better to protect their legacy than Carpathia. She tiptoed downstairs and took the items from the shrine, carrying them in bags. It was at this point that Logue realized that she had not considered how heavy the combined artifacts would be, and how it would hinder her attempts to leave the building. Logue resulted in slowly dragging the bags on the floor, making a snail's pace towards the exit. She had just turned the final corner when she found herself colliding into another body. Logue looked up and saw a tall figure in the dark. She immediately began to panic, thinking she had been discovered, until she heard the figure's voice.

"Logue? What are doing," asked a familiar voice in a hushed tone.

"Mel? Listen, I have to get out of here. Please don't tell anyone."

"Well, you're not getting far carrying all those bags. I'm leaving too. Pass me some of those."

Logue was so overwhelmed with relief that she didn't question why Mel was leaving the Legion. She simply handed the heaviest artifacts to the tall man and walked out the door. It was not until the pair was nearing the Capital's outskirts, when the Legion headquarters had long faded into the distance, that either one spoke.

"Why are you leaving?" asked Logue.

"The last few days have shown me that the Legion wasn't all I thought it was. I assume it's the same with you?"

Logue nodded.

When the pair reached the carriages that transported people to the various settlements in the land, Logue was shocked to find that she didn't have enough money for the long trip. "Destinations that remote cost extra," said the carriage driver about the village Logue had described. Mel shelled out the extra coin without hesitation. When Logue began to protest, Mel assured her that this wouldn't impact his own plans to disappear. The two loaded up the carriage with the Jaegers' artifacts and turned towards each other.

"Goodbye Logue, and I'm sorry."

Logue looked puzzled. "Sorry for what?"

"For bringing you to the Legion, for what happened to your Ma, for everything."

"No, I made my own choices. I'm thankful to have had you as a friend."

The two shook hands and Logue boarded the carriage. "Goodbye Mel. Take care of yourself."

"You too."

Logue maintained eye contact with Mel until the young man disappeared with distance. She didn't know what awaited her, but she knew that there was nothing left for her in the Capital.

The End