Lena turned around to find Vika and Lerche, standing behind him as usual. Vika was wearing the summer uniform of the United Kingdom, with the Strike Package insignia of Lieutenant Colonel stitched on it.
It was past operating hours at Rüstkammer base, almost time for dinner. They were at the First Barracks, where Lena resided and toiled at, on a corridor with few people around. The lazy sun before the sunset shone through the rectangular stained glass over the long summer days, and the song of birds came from afar.
“It’s very late, but happy birthday…I’m sorry. I wanted to give you a present, but my personal gift to you may be a problem.
For a moment, Lena did not understand, but she soon smiled and nodded.
Vika was royalty. Even if it was a cheap present, giving a present to Lena or the Eighty-Sixes would be deemed a reward, a bestowment. It would have political implications.
“No. I am glad that you have this intention…”
After some thought, she continued bemusedly.
“I have received a wonderful dress.”
But those who give dresses to ladies are either families or lovers or partners. She quietly noted, but Vika shrugged gallantly.
“It is not given from me, but from the royal family. You’re a guest after all…now that I think about it, I did walk a dangerous bridge back then.”
Lena did not really understand what he was saying. She tilted her little head, but he merely waved it off to dismiss it.
“Leaving that aside…what else shall I say instead?”
He turned his Tyrian purple away from Lena, in another direction. The neighboring barracks had a path linked to the “Juggernauts” hanger.
“The path leading straight to the hanger is closed for the time being.”
“Your Highness’ deputy, Lord Zaitsa is currently distributing materials.”
Lerche, standing right behind Vika, added on.
Lena did not understand, and blinked away.
“In that situation, it will be bad of him to make you pick him up. He’s probably making a detour.”
“Lord Zaitsa said these documents are classified, and he does not need assistance. I suppose we do not have to pick him up.
That’s how it is, so Vika said as he left. Lena stood by the entrance of the relatively quiet corridor. It remained open as it was not night, and Vika glanced outside as he listened to the birds.
“Just wait a little longer…he should be here soon.”
Once he said this, Lena realized who he was referring to.
Located behind the barracks was the corridor uncommonly used. Hardly anyone would use this entrance as it was a little far from the cafeteria and hangar.
Outside, the golden sun shone through the emerald leaves, and shone upon a person’s silhouette.
The moment she saw him, Lena ran off.
Shin was walking from the “Juggernaut” hangar, through the tunnel formed by the rows of intertwined branches and leaves. He blinked away once he saw her running towards him.
“Lena…were you waiting for me here?”
“Yes. After all, I have not thanked you for the birthday present.”
Vika probably arranged for them to meet at this relatively quiet place.
The entire schedule for the day involved the testing of the “Juggernaut” after the system update, and it took a longer time than expected. Shin had to be in the hangar until lights out, and only had a short break for dinner. He would have to return to the hangar after dinner. Lena would not have the time or chance to thank him for the birthday present.
Shin looked a little perturbed, seemingly gaudy about something.
“You’re busy too, aren’t you, Lena? I didn’t give you anything special…I received something from you on my birthday,”
Midway through his words, Shin shook his head. He should be denying that he gave her the present, rather than acknowledge that she gave him one.
“I gave it to you because I wanted to. I think you’ll like it, since you’re so focused on work.”
Lena bloomed with a smile once she heard those words.
“Yes. But I wish to thank you too.”
She received a pretty, intricate looking music box. It was accompanied with a kaleidoscope, crafted so that one could enjoy it visually and aurally. It was not something that could be bought anywhere; surely he spent much time and effort into choosing it.
“Thank you very much…I am glad to receive it. I shall treasure it.”
Shin showed a wry smile once she said so.
“It’s great that you say so, but you don’t have to. It’s just a decoration. I shall use the bookmark I received.”
“Yes, same for me.”
The fleeting lights were accompanied with the distinct metallic sound that played a melancholic, tragic music. Every night, she had the same dream.
There was the cluster of blue butterflies in the distant azure skies, and the monstrous red spider lilies swaying with the wind. They never got to see each other’s faces back then, but they were finally reunited.
“Shin, are you going for dinner?”
“Yes…the tests will be running late. Will be headed back after I’m done with dinner.”
“Good work there. I heard tonight’s dinner is specially prepared by the head cook.”
Lena smiled as she naturally held his hand.
It was a hearty, unburdened smile, like a large ring of elegant, silvery-white flowers.
“At least you can enjoy your meal time, I suppose?”
Army mornings start very early, and while it was dark outside, Lena began preparations in her own room.
The black cat Tibby had a look around her bedroom and office, which had many more things present. It merely looked at the shelves and desk, which it could not climb.
The table in her bedroom had a few presents. A little further away was a kitten photo frame with a blurred looking photo. There was also an opened collection of landscape scenes, and a canvas tote bag with some stuffed animals hanging on the wall next to it.
Lena looked towards the intricate, antique music box, and smiled.
Finally, she checked her appearance once again, straightened her peak cap, and right.
She smiled naturally, and turn around with the heels clicking gently as she skipped out of the room.
Once the door closed, there was nobody in Lena’s room, and on her table,
There was a diary placed next to the music box, with a silver bookmark in between. It contained a picture of the red spider lilies and the “Juggernauts”. She discreetly reserved one for herself when she ordered and gave it to Shin,
And when the morning summer sun finally rose to its peak, the shadows formed by the music box and the bookmark came together without anyone noticing.