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One could ask ‘how could a war unit be recycled’ or even ‘can this catalyst of destruction begin life anew with civilians, especially if those civilians used to fear his kind. Machines were still being adapted into society on Garuda thanks to Ion’s efforts, but not enough people seemed to take kindly to the group of robots that seemed to follow her wherever she went. Maybe it was because some families distinctly remember age-old stories of war machines, perhaps some ancient history textbooks spoke of what evil could come of mechanical creations. Whatever the cause, the integration was going rather rough; Ion feared it would be beyond her lifetime when Rodea and the rest of the R Units would be accepted fully.

Of course, this idea scared the prototype, often leading him to short fits where he would fly off for a few hours to work off (sometimes literal) steam. He adored the people that lived in the floating continents, he swore his life for them, but damn if they couldn’t be difficult sometimes. Ion would naturally wait calmly for him to return, often holding conversations with the other denizens of the house.

She’d come to know the one called Valgius well despite the initial rough start. The memory of how he harmed Rodea and served to be one of the final forces faced before returning to her home continent was a bitter one, but people changed: there was good in everyone, even machines. Despite this, however, some of his ideas were… not as helpful as they should be, especially regarding Rodea:

“Have you ever thought of neutralizing his flight capability?” he asked absentmindedly, eyes on the window.

Ion shook her head, drawing her drafting book closer to her body. “Not in a million years, no,” she said, almost defiantly. “Why would you clip a bird of its wings if all it wanted to do was fly?

Valgius chucked at that, getting up and pushing his chair in. Rodea had previously damaged the other’s energy regulators beyond repair, and thus the slightest flash of bitterness began to shine through on the subject. Ion’s reached out multiple times in offering to repair it, but he’d deny it and walk away before she could grab her tools. “Are you sure you’d want something like that running free in that mental state?”

“Good god you make him sound like some sort of demon,” she scoffed, slapping the booklet down and pinching the bridge of her nose.

“With something like the rest of us flying about with the capability to destroy the entire continent if he so wishes, I wouldn’t feel safe. Sure you took his weapons, but remember that we can still hold a good fight unarmed.” With that, Valgius turned on his heels and walked away, clearly back outside. It wasn’t like there was much for him to do, but Ion was still hurt by his words.

There was so much about Rodea she didn’t know yet, things he’d never tell her now that he knew his origins. She often thought about what things would be like if she had the blueprints for a similar unit, what could be done to possibly prolong the memory of herself to make sure Rodea wouldn’t drift for another eternity alone… But the thought was immoral in her eyes. Those who spent as much time as they could to lengthen the life they had never ended well, be it in fiction or real life. Giardo was enough for her to realize this, but the thought was tempting at times.

He’d easily spend a day out at a time, leaving Ion to her thoughts when these fits occurred. She told herself to think of what to do when her time comes and Rodea hasn’t aged beyond his appearance: what would happen to him? Cecilia’s death was so sudden that he didn’t have the time to understand what growing old could mean. Looking at Ojimof was enough for him to have an idea, but the prototype machine wasn’t nearly close enough to understand the loss Ion would go through when he passes. Time was an enemy to humans, but the machines could live an eternity, hence one of the reasons they wouldn’t be integrated without a fuss.

She found herself sitting on the front deck again, sighing deeply. At least the cool air relieved her of some hot tension held within: times like these let her rejuvenate a bit. It was tough to see things stop with how busy she’s been finding herself in a way though: usually there’s some form of trouble going on.

Orthos was sitting on one of the chairs behind her, simply locked in a short sleep mode session. Ion couldn’t help but smile: it was funny in a way to see how peaceful someone could be, even when you’ve seen them ready to claw someone else’s throat out. In truth, she didn’t know if they were actually asleep or faking it because of the visor over their eyes, but it was a calming thought nonetheless. After a short giggle, she found herself walking away from the house a bit more.

The other unit, Lailas, was probably off doing some labor with Pedro, no doubt with Tonio latched to them somehow. After being with Rodea, the child didn’t seem too scared by the mechanical soldiers anymore, even going so far as to request a ride at some point.

It was just… surreal, to see them interacting like this. They were created to be the destroyers of countries, harbingers of death raining terror from above-- This was practically exactly the opposite of their initial orders and intent. Based on how most of them acted upon meeting Rodea again, they were created with hostility in them somehow, but it was almost heartwarming to see how things could change completely, given the time to do so.

She heard Sonya’s soft voice drift over from the small patch of woods nearby, no doubt in conversation with the final unit, Cerbes. The two could practically be considered related at this point, despite the nagging that came with it. Sonya insisted she needed the reality check, but there was no denying that Cerbes could be more than harsh in a discussion. However, she’s seemed to realize the human had a weaker body, and thus formed a sort of protective attachment with her…

Almost like Rodea, Ion found herself thinking. It was a self-indulgent thought; he promised to protect all of Garuda, yet somehow, she always heard him add ‘Ion’ specifically to the end of the statement. It flattered her, but she didn’t really understand. The idea of an artificial creation understanding love was far fetched-- despite the apparent hearts the R Units were built with, she didn’t know if Rodea could return--

She shook her head, eyes shut tightly. “No, there’s no way I can think of him that way--” Ion said, balling her fists slightly.

There was a soft thump next to her in the middle of the outburst, a soft grumbling as they realized what Ion had said. “Think of who that way?” they asked, making her jump a bit at the sound. Of course, at all times he could’ve come back, it was now…

“A-ah, no one,” she said quickly, feeling her face stain bright red. “I-I was talking about Tonio and how annoying he can seem--” She cut herself off, knowing when Rodea could tell when she was lying. His arms were crossed and his tail flicked irritably: a new habit he seemed to pick up lately. “Yeah, I suck at lying…”

He sighed and flashed a smile, already over why he even left in the first place. “Well, for one, I can agree with you on that, but now I’m interested in who you’re actually talking about--” His expression sunk a bit, the luminescent azure hues on his body fading a bit. “Is there someone in town you have feelings for?”

Her eyes widened as she took a pace backwards in surprise. “N-no! I mean, well, no, not exactly, but--”

“Does that mean you have a ‘crush’?”

Ion could only sigh, there was no easy way to go about telling her feelings to him. He was a war machine, she was a human, there was no way anything would work out, be it socially or even physically. She was aware of the repercussions had this been formally declared, but that didn’t negate what she felt. “W-well, yeah…”

Rodea’s tail seemed to droop a bit, but he motioned for her to follow back to the house: this wasn’t something for everyone to hear. Besides, if Lailas heard him discussing something like this with a human, he’d never live it down.

He was surprised when Ion didn’t even sit down in the main room like she usually did, following hesitantly down to her room.

The mechanic slumped on her bed, pulling her goggles off as she stared into the skylight. It reminded her that the others were of a whole other realm than hers: she’d never be able to get up there as freely as they could…

She had blatantly told Rodea no leaping around in the house, but that didn’t stop her from snickering as he practically catapulted from the door to sit on the bed next to her, nearly putting a hole through the mattress. That didn’t matter to Ion however: any time spent with him was fine, even if it meant property damage.

“So, who was it?” he asked, laying down on his stomach. “It’s gotta be someone I know… This place isn’t exactly big, unless they’re from the city…”

She nodded. “Yeah, I see him every day…” Her heart caught up in her throat as he turned his head to look at her, icy eyes staring as if they could see right through her to the truth--

“Ah. It can’t be Tonio, he’s too young and annoying, according to you.” Rodea’s laugh was lighthearted in sound, but held something hollow further down: was it denial? “And Sonya has dibs on Novio…” He closed his eyes and pressed his face into the blankets.

“No, neither of them,” she said, laying back herself.

His eyes snapped open as he shot up, an idea already forming in his mind. “I-is it Lailas?! Heavens above please don’t say it’s him-- And you’ve said before Orthos is far too pretentious for your liking--”

Ion sat up as well now, grinning to him. “No, and no to Orthos. I think I did say that, come to think of it…”

“Then is it Val--”

She shook her head one more time, and he understood. No more words were spoken, the air was heavy with tension between them. It hurt her to finally admit it out loud, but at the same time, comforted the mechanic to at least know her words were known-- even if unspoken. Rodea though seemed to be taking it a bit differently, scratching the back of his head one moment, then sat back and crossed his legs. He wasn’t sure if he had words either: the delicate fabric of the moment was not to be squandered with any sounds.

Ion stood up, stretching her arms and well aware of the warmth in her cheeks. “W-well, that was a pleasant talk,” she stammered, “I think I’ll get something to drink for a moment--”

The veteran machine watched her walk out, wincing as she tripped on her way down the hall. He didn’t know if he could stand himself, his legs seemed like they were malfunctioning. It was easy to tell she wanted to have some time to herself: humans were supposed to be a nervous wreck when confessing (he’s seen it plenty of times, namely when Novio finally proposed to Sonya), but would never expect to feel the same jittery sensation himself. Now that he thought, it’s only happened to him once before…

A thought shot through his mind as he rolled off the bed, trying as he might to look casual when walking down the hall. His heart would’ve been racing had this been before things took a turn for the worst-- he couldn’t back out now.

The young lady inhaled sharply when Rodea came in the room, leaning over on the arm of the chair she sat in. A book lay open on her lap, her current schematics for a new airship splayed across the pages, some even wet by the glass in her hand from her moment of surprise. At first, she tried to pretend whatever transpired in the room earlier was just a figment of her imagination, even going so far as to greet him cheerfully.

However, there was no spoken response, only the nearly inaudible whirring from his chest as he moved a little closer. The next moments seemed to blur for her, Ion barely registered as he approached yet closer, finally grazing her cheek with his lips before backing off again.

She was glad she moved her drink to the floor because just about all the papers fell from her lap, even losing her pencil as it rolled under a nearby desk. It was so sudden given their discussion minutes ago, she never thought him to actually act on it… When the mechanic looked over at Rodea, he was smiling warmly, not like the mischievous grin that was usually plastered on his face.

“Cecilia taught me that that’s what humans do when they like each other a lot.”

Ion was lost for words. All she could do was wrap her arms around him and pull him into what was likely the most awkward and uncomfortable hug they both have been in, but neither side cared for the duration.