Blemished

Old Toyoko was furthest away from the initial impact of the dueling houses. The state remained preserved from the effects of war with a biochemical shield that kept them hidden from plain sight. Eventually, technology could not keep up, and the veil was removed after a series of bombs blasted through the exterior. Showers of ashes consistently fell from the sky and could not be resolved. The once bustling cities and country sides became vast wastelands. A dramatic turn occurred when the scientist who created the shield discovered the shield was infused with radioactive particles, which caused a pandemic of advanced aging.
Hatsuharu Yoshida was born into the prominent Kuge aristocratic class. As grandnephew to the Shogun, there was an expectation for him to assume the position when his father took deathly ill. Early on, he became disillusioned with the stifling hypocrisy of high society. Their eccentric trends segregated them from the rest of the war-torn society, but only made them to appear as an established cult. Though rumors had been repeatedly denied, the elitists were clearly in favor of the Greater House and donated substantial monetary tributes to avoid the infantry lottery. The entire state was exempted from sanction as well.
 At 10 years old, Hatsuharu rebelled against his family and joined the Gokudō gang. His father pleaded with a longtime business associate, General Guitterez, to intervene. Eight years later, his father’s hopes that the intervention would lead the wayward youth back into the family fold were dashed. The silver lining was that General Guitterez became a mentor, but convinced the boy that he would find more fulfillment with his strength and talents as a military officer. Instead of leaving the crime syndicate to return home, Hatsuharu enrolled at Calvary Academy.
 
 The Waring Robins, Ch. 8

Set Apart, Set Aside

The next state set on the brink of economic ruin was Dosea. Destroyed infrastructures. Through shared seaports with Intagua Island, the entire region to succumbed to impoverished ruin in a matter of months. Over the war, aristocratic families segregated from the rest of society. They lived on seventy acres of land, which was enclosed inside a giant bubble cloud encased with a chemical repellent of toxins. Rumors spread that funding for this encampment was largely donated from the Great House counsel.   

Viscount Leopold Shevchenko was an elite member of the high-aristocrat society, who spent his childhood immerses in lavishly eccentric cultures. His wife, Titania, was also brought up in that environment. Together, they established soiree season (formerly known as debutante balls), in which matrimonial pairs were matched to ensure wealth would remain within the establishment. The Tribunal Counsel sanctioned the elitists for not contributing men and women to serve in the armed forces to end the war.

Lilya was the middle daughter in the Shevchenko household. She vehemently opposed marriage to maintain social and economic status. Her parents did not give her a second thought, as she was never deemed alluring like her older and younger sisters. Her prospects for a suitable marriage could not be guaranteed, thus her father secretly enrolled her at Calvary Academy to cut their losses. She was cut by her father’s rash actions, but her mother insisted it was a better alternative than being shunned by any eligible bachelors.   

The Waring Robins, Ch. 7

Fiery Resolve

At the southern border of Soleste, South Praiju struggled to remain free from the toils of war. Millions of civilians died from drinking contaminated water and other unsanitary conditions brought on by the death toll. When monsoon season swiftly came in and caused further devastation to all the cities, the Tribunal Council was forced to intervene with aid. An exemption from the Infantry Lottery was enacted to preserve the surviving families. Hopes were dashed that stabilization and normalcy would return soon.
Maaz Faruk was an inquisitive young boy who wanted to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps as a military pilot. His maternal grandfather was the Sultan and mother was a highly acclaimed astrology lecturer. Most of his older siblings either worked as attendants in the royal palace, or as educators throughout the state. There was no particular expectation of young Maaz, which allowed him the freedom to choose his own path growing up.
Maaz had fallen in love with a girl named Priyah from a neighboring village. Maaz invited her to have dinner with him at his family’s compound. Priyah asked to invite her three sisters, since they had never been near the palace before. Her three sisters boasted about the event to their schoolmates, who asked to be invited as well. On the night of the dinner, twenty-five students arrived at the family’s compound. Maaz’s disappointment turned to rage as he watched the girl of his dreams leave the party early with another boy. He then climbed to the roof of his parent’s living quarters and cried, while the party down below got out of hand. In a disillusioned frenzy, he tore off his tunic and set it on fire. He returned inside to warn the uninvited guest of the fire. The guest paid him no mind until they noticed the fire roaring above. The blaze spread uncontrollably for several hours. Nearly all fourteen houses within the compound were demolished, but fortunately, no one was hurt. 
Weighed with the heavy burden of guilt about what he had done, he was inconsolable. For a brief period, he fell into a deep depression over his unrequited love and the fact that he had brought embarrassment to his family. He requested to enroll at Calvary Academy to redeem his honor. At first, his mother denied his request. She feared that his sensitive nature would not balance well with military life. The Sultan reminded her they were all facing hardships because of the ongoing war. With his family’s blessings, Maaz set his ambitions high to redeem himself in their eyes.

The Waring Robins, Ch. 6

Full Bloom

Intagua Island was the third state to falter from the war, with a devastation of famine. The central trading post for food and goods, and the naval force headed by General Malta, were established there. Nation-wide conflict deserters fled to the beaches for refuge, only to be met with a fatal chemical substance in the water. Scores of human and livestock remains piled up along the coast, as the infestation consumed the region.
Thomasa Savoi was the only child of a minor sugarcane harvester and a popular dressmaker. Her mother, Galayna, was discovered by General Malta’s new wife and asked to become a personal seamstress. Galayna did not want to leave her young daughter alone, so they permanently moved to the Malta estate. Her father, Oliver, was also requested to join them. All went well until he made a romantic pass at several female attendants. He then was dismissed back home. Oliver became bitter about being left out of such a promising future on the Malta estate, which was thousands of miles away from destruction and chaos.
Galayna was proud that her accomplishments as a seamstress brought enough acclaim that she could negotiate in her contract that Thomasa would be properly educated. She ensured her daughter was raised with knowledge of all of their traditions. The Savoi family had a long-standing history as phenomenal botanists. Before the war began, Oliver’s sugarcane plantation was the highest grossing agricultural establishment in the state.
Though General Malta spent most of her time away on deployments, she had developed a nurturing relationship with Thomasa. There were no other children on the estate during Thomasa’s formative years. General Malta’s wife tutored her in academia, while Malta herself incorporated light military tactical studies. Thomasa showed promise in both and was most enthusiastic about astronomy because it helped her cultivate land navigation skills around the estate. Thomasa displayed talents in homeopathy and also achieved high marks in academia, for which she had not received the same formal education as children of aristocrats and nobles. General Malta considered her a “gifted child,” and insisted to Galayna that she be enrolled at the Calvary Academy.
As the war raged on, each year the Infantry Lottery called every male head of household to serve on the front lines against the two houses. Thomasa’s father died from pneumonia twelve days after his name was selected from the Infantry Lottery, which meant she would serve in his place. By this time, Galayna agreed Thomasa was far too talented to serve as a mere infantryman. General Malta pulled some strings for a voucher and paid for Thomasa’s tuition to enroll at the acclaimed institution. 
 
The Waring Robins, Ch. 5
 

Family Affairs

The northern state of La’Montre was roughly 400,000 miles from Nerou. When the first war of the two houses took place, La’Montre was immediately sacked after the fall of the capital. Many of the lower nobles joined the Lesser House to ensure their properties and interests would not be adversely affected. Nearly all the cities of La’Montre were known as industrial commerce hubs. The smallest rural farmlands were run by the lowest level of nobles.
A combination of severe droughts, heavy land taxes, and lack of manpower played a role in the nationwide deterioration of each state. The Roudan family oversaw farmlands in La’Montre. The eldest heir, Victor, became executor five years after Calvary Academy opened. He felt passionate about protecting his homeland from the clutches of the two houses at the time. Many of his peers supported the Lesser House, to which he opposed. He enrolled at Calvary Academy to become an officer and serve as an engineer specialist. Victor relinquished his role as executor to his younger brother, Emilio.
Emilio had two sons, Emille and Emmett, who helped who helped him with all business affairs. Emille was not close to his father or brother. He instead, idolized his uncle Victor. He was born at the start of the 1st war, and at twenty-five followed his uncle’s footsteps by enrolling at Calvary Academy. Together, the Roudans were noted to be the least competent of cadets. They struggled mentally, physically, and academically. It was through a sheer determination that they graduated on time with their class.
Emmett was seven years younger than Emille. Until Emille left for the academy, Emmett enjoyed life as a moderately successful underground boxer. He had to give that all up once his father demanded him to attend their family duties. Emilio grew frustrated with his younger son’s lackadaisical approach to managing their properties. This put an even greater strain on dynamics within the Roudan household. The men often bickered on matters that ranged from finances to whether they should formally pledge support to the Lesser House. Emmett vehemently opposed the idea.
Victor and Emille were assigned to the Delta squad. During their 2-year stint at Calvary Academy, both the Greater and Lesser Houses called a ceasefire. General Benavides warned the graduating classes of cadets that this was not an end to the war. Benavides had concerns, which he advised the Tribunal Council. To his dismay, he was correct in his assertions. The day after graduation, bombs blasted once again all over the nation. Delta squad was sent on a reconnaissance mission shortly after.
A report came to the Tribunal Council that during the mission 2nd Lieutenants Victor and Emille Roudan were seen fleeing the pinnacle of action after an ambush by the Greater House knights. The officers were confirmed dead by the Delta squad leader, though their bodies were confiscated by the knights. Word got back to Emilio, who was embroiled in massive amounts of debt because of a decline in harvested crops. The scandal of his brother’s and son’s deaths drove him to suicide. With no family or a place to call home, Emmett Roudan felt he had no other alternative but to enroll at Calvary Academy.
 
The Waring Robins, Ch. 4
 

Distinct Honor

For one month, the kingdom of Soleste mourned the passing of King Klauvius XVI. Each provincial state held daily memorial services and the entire workforce was sent on holiday for observance. Unfortunately, the two opposing factions of the monarch took full advantage of this period of national grief to mobilize their armies. Both the Greater and Lesser Houses declared civil war against each other.
Several authority figures within the king’s royal cabinet had become disgruntled because of the king’s lack of desire to gain more territories in other countries. The consensus was that this passive standing made the kingdom of Soleste appear weak to the rest of the world. All the uproar came to a head when the Archbishop and the Earl of Nerou conspired with a coup.
Lines were drawn in the sand when there could be no mediation between the two court officials on how to accomplish this task. Devout followers of the Archbishop congregated regularly and comprised their own sect. A white robin was selected for their banner. They called themselves the Greater House, as they felt their cause was closest to the will of the heavenly realm. The Earl of Nerou, who preferred the blue robin to represent his cause, called upon the lower-ranking constables. They formed the Lesser House, as it was not required to have such piety for their establishment.
Meanwhile, Captain Benavides had been summoned to the garrison headquarters for a promotion. He seized on the opportunity to request a summit with several battalion commanders to deliberate a battle strategy to put an end to the war. His unit leaders, Paolo Guitterez and Yasha Malta, were eager to be informed of the latest intel. Through the former king’s reign, it had been nearly impossible to achieve a promotion in rank without deployments to conflicts abroad.
Benavides, Guitterez, and Malta were among the sixteen soldiers who were honored for their service and dedication. Guitterez was the last to receive his new rank insignia. After the ceremony concluded, the soldiers were dismissed on liberty.
Guitterez remained in the reception area of the central office. He was a tall man with delicate fair skin that contrasted against his short, dark brown hair. His brooding mood only seemed to improve in the presence of a woman, which was certainly the case when Malta entered the room.
He shifted from lounging to sit upright, and flirtatiously winked with a nod at her. Malta rolled her eyes to rebuff his signal to sit next to him on the metal bench. She stood beside him with folded arms and her back braced her back against the wall. Her pursed pink lips showed she would not be friendly.
Guitterez did not take her hint to heart, and insisted on engaging.
He gruffly cleared his throat and said, “Congratulations to you, Major Malta. It fit that you were promoted for your ambitious endeavors out in the far east.” He took her smile to mean that she had warmed up to him. With a smug grin, he added, “I must say, your new rank insignia dazzles with the spark in your eyes.”
Malta scoffed, took three steps forward, then pivoted directly in front of him. “Thank you, Major Guitterez. It was also fitting that you received your new rank right at the conclusion of the promotion ceremony. We all wondered if you had been removed from the list because of rumors of fraternization,” she replied sternly.
“Alleged fraternization?” he choked uncomfortably.
Malta returned to her position, braced against the wall as she chuckled quietly. They both straightened their postures when they saw Benavides come out of the conference room with three members of the Tribunal Council. A heated discussion appeared to be in place. Tension descended through the halls with raised but hushed voices. Benavides held his ground, and did not falter under the heavy tone.
“King Klauvius placed a tremendous burden on Benavides, and all of Soleste,” Guitterez whispered.
“If anyone can handle such a hefty obligation, it would be Major Benavides,” Malta replied in her normal voice. She tucked a loose strand of her strawberry blonde hair behind an ear and continued, “few of us have the right to stand next to him. His brilliance has kept this kingdom afloat, even during such turbulent times.”
Guitterez sighed with annoyance. “Our king certainly put a lot of faith in him. That bothered me about Klauvius. I often tried to make sense of just who he was.”
“Klauvius was a lovely man,” Malta answered dryly.
“Benavides seemed to have fancied him greatly,” Guitterez said with a sneer. “I on the other hand, could never fancy another man in the same manner I would fancy a woman like you.”
Malta crinkled her nose and scowled with a death stare at Guitterez. Before she had the chance to rebuke him, Benavides crept into the office, smiling.
 
The Warring Robins, Ch. 2
 

Fly Free, Dear King

For twelve generations, the kingdom of Soleste enjoyed peace throughout each of its 21 provincial states. During the 9th Imperial period, King Klauvius XVI made the province of Nerou the new capital state. The relocation from the former capital of Icen caused an uproar amongst the people, but soon deescalated once everything was settled. A renowned oracle once advised the king that birds like robins signified transformation, growth, renewal, passion, and power. As a tribute to his royal subjects, King Klauvius issued several thousand robins to each state official as a sign of goodwill.
Late one winter evening, King Klauvius summoned his most trusted advisor, Captain Heinrich Benavides, to his conference chambers. The long-awaited meeting had finally come to fruition after a series of cancelations. Benavides rushed down the great-hall, as his men were instructed to wait attentively for his return. He entered the lavishly varnished black wooden doors of the conference chambers with a sense of urgency to learn what news awaited him.
The once vibrant king no longer sat at the helm of the deliberation table, but rested feebly in his armchair by the fireplace. King Klauvius shivered as he was wrapped in two white panther skinned quilts, though a luscious fire roared before him. Recently, he had donned a silky mane of wavy blonde curls. He was a hearty consumer of food and drink, but now his healthy frame had been reduced to a shriveled prune in comparison.
Benavides was moved to tears to see his mentee come to such grim conditions. He solemnly strolled over to the king and placed his sword on the decorative mantle, so that he could perform a proper bow.
“Your Majesty, I have come as soon as you requested,” Benavides said, after clearing his parched throat.
“I— called you here because my departure will soon come. This devilish ailment has ravaged my body, just as it has done so to scores of my subjects,” the king panted.
Benavides took a knee to look his ruler in the eyes and placed a burly hand on his shoulder. He did not interrupt, knowing the king’s premonition of death was a confirmation of what the lead physician declared hours earlier.
King Klauvius continued, “I earnestly hoped to serve my kingdom as a fair king. Some say I accomplished that goal, while others do not believe I was worthy to sit on the throne.” He closed his eyes and paused briefly. An attendant entered the room and placed a smelling salt under his nose to rouse him.  
“Where was I? Oh, yes. The Royal Physician will announce my condition by morning. I do not expect to make it through midday. To the matter at hand; with no heir, the throne will be left deserted and my kingdom will crumble in shambles. I humbly beg of you, dear Benavides, to assume the throne in my stead.”
Benavides turned grey in the face as his jawline stiffened. With a growl, he sprung to his feet. He refrained from scowling and fixed his tone to match the solemn mood.
“There, now, old friend. I am certain your feverish nature has brought you to the brink of madness. You know it would not be possible for me, a common military soldier, to assume the throne of your bloodline,” he said.
King Klauvius sunk further into his armchair and sighed with grief.
“Then we are at an impasse. No one shall assume the throne after my death. The kingdom will be fractured by the two fanatical factions from my cabinet, he said.
Benavides slammed his fist on the mantle, then quickly regained composure.
“I was not sure that you were aware of them. My intel reported unsavory movements within your cabinet some months ago. They call themselves the Greater and Lesser Houses, and each have the audacity to mimic your royal banner with the emblems of blue and white robins.,” he replied.
Another long pause drifted into the room. This time, the king’s labored breathing rivaled the crackling fire logs.
“I have been thoroughly informed of these cults. They claim to represent the golden era of our kingdom, but have robbed my treasury dry to support their efforts,” King Klauvius sniffled.
Benavides turned to look away from the crushed king. Though he could not conceal the grief in his eyes, he returned his gaze once more.
“There are no man-made elements that exist without weaknesses. It is clear the Houses do not share the same cord. Tempers have already been flared by the head of each sect’s assertion to control the entire country. Inevitably, we will be embroiled in war,” he said.
King Klauvius squirmed until he sat upright and stretched his hand towards Benavides.
“You mustn’t let it come to that. You must intervene,” he shrieked.
Benavides clenched the king’s hand, and the two men embraced for several moments.
“I swear to you, I will end this madness,” Benavides whispered.
The oath was sealed with a tender, passionate kiss. By morning, Benavides stood with the lead physician to announce the king’s critical condition. After the meeting convened, he sat alone in the conference chambers. There was no solace for him seated in the exquisite armchair where Klauvius had lingered in his arms until dawn. Bitter tears drenched the quilts doused with his lover’s aroma. Outside the castle, church bells rang twelve times and thirty grey robins were released all at once. This customary ceremony signified that King Klauvius was dead.

The Warring Robins, Ch. 1