December 18, 430 AR
A forest, three miles North of Sankt, Brindtsong
The snow-covered pines of the forest shook with every step of the Armigear. The two-storey bipedal tank left large footprints in the packed powder, traversing the icy terrain more efficiently than any tank would. Aiden stood on the rampart on the robot’s waist, scouting for anyone within the white landscape with his binoculars.
The Armigear stopped in its tracks.
“Hmm? Einhander, something wrong?” Aid knocked onto the side of the tank’s hull.
The rest of the squad sitting on the robot’s back looked at the cockpit as well.
“Muuuuuuuh… We’ve been at it for hours, Aiden! Can’t we head back now? I need to work on my babies!” A girl’s voice complained over the comms.
Aiden sighed in reply. “We’re here to assist the evacuees from Sankt, remember? Worry about your bullet-spewing abominations later, psycho gunsmith.”
A green-haired Alven peeked from the robot’s left shoulder, her "ears’ twitching.
“Don’t you think 11 extra hours is already stretching it? We we’re supposed to head back to Kingsfall much earlier,” she tilted her head.
The boy shook his head in reply. “Failnot, Ein-”
“It’s Tris and Seria, Aid,” a green haired girl with glasses sitting beside the Alven scolded him as she drank coffee from a special flask. “Mission time ended ages ago, dumbass. Referring to us with callsigns is just distant and plain rude.”
“…sorry about that.”
The Alven girl waved off the issue. “It’s fine, it’s fine.” She proceeds to pester the girl with glasses beside her. “Hey, Nem, give me some coffee, quick! Its freeeeezing here!”
“Hands. Off. The flask, Tris. If you’re so cold, lose the braid and cover your neck,” she said, taking another sip.
" You know, sometimes I wonder how despite your taste in clothes, you somehow can’t appreciate the beauty in hair," Tris crossed her arms. “I mean, just look at all that split-”
“Ahem!! Back to the point. Aid, were you overextending our search because of those two evacuees near Rebound Cave?”
Pierce, the flaxen-haired medic from the other shoulder, butted in. “Which two, Nem? The ones with the missing kid?”
“Yeah, Pierce. Well, is it, Aid?”
Aid nods weakly.
“I know… Its too much to ask you guys getting into more trouble than we should’ve especially with last night’s blizzard. But I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing that there’s a lost child out there by herself, freezing, in a warzone, no less,” he explained, averting his gaze from the others. “I know how it felt like before.”
Someone sighed was heard over the radio.
The Armigear’s door opened. A black haired girl emerged from the hatch.
“Well, you don’t have to be alone on this one, you know?” Seria smiles with a salute. “Next time, though, don’t you dare insult my babies. That’s rude considering you’re using my magnus opus right now,” she notes the gun slung around his waist.
“Well, if you’re still planning to look for that kid, better pick up the pace;” Wainecroft, the blonde armored guy beside Pierce, said as he looked into the distance. “Wind’s picking up. Even if the girl had some matches, I don’t think she’ll be able to handle another blizzard on her own,” he added.
“Right. Seria?” Aid nods at the girl.
“Huh. That’s weird,” usually silent Lancea, the lancer with black disheveled hair, voiced out from behind the back.
“What’s weird?” Pierce asked.
She pointed her pilebunker towards 11 o’ clock of their position. “I thought I saw gunfire from that area earlier. But its too silent, even for this distance.”
“Wait…” Aiden immediately scanned towards the direction with binoculars, waiting for a spark.
And through the snowy wind and darkness, a light much like a small flare blazed, dying quickly as it appeared.
“…matches…” he said as he put down the binoculars and took a leap off the robot.
“Wah- Aiden?! Wait for us!” Seria quickly closes the hatch and fumbles restarting the Armigear’s systems.
Aid runs at top speed towards the direction of the light, eventually coming across a poorly made ice shelter.
Inside was a nine year old girl with blonde hair, surrounded by spent matches and a small puppy, shivering in the cold. In a fuss, Aiden takes his overcoat and wraps it around the freezing little girl and her dog.
“You’re going to be alright, okay? Your parents have been looking for you,” he assures the child, shouting it over the howling wind.
“Guys! I’ve got her! They’re okay!!”
Setting up camp in a makeshift snow trench underneath the Armigear, Task Force Perillous took refuge from the snowstorm, having saved the little girl named Commelina and her labrador pup, Lily. Apparently their family joined the evacuation very late. They got separated from their parents in the resulting panic as Garrian and Brindt forces clashed in Sankt. Lily got spooked from gunfire, and Commelina decided to run after it, getting lost in the process.
“You know, what you did was very dangerous, young lady,” Aid scolded the girl as he checked the dog’s medical condition.
“I know, Sir Aid, but…”
She took the puppy away from Aiden’s hands with a hug.
“I just can’t leave my Lily behind!” she gleamed at the arcbiologist.
He smiled back. “Just so you know, you’re getting no praises from me for this, heheh,” he said with a chuckle.
“Sorry to interrupt, but would you mind getting some more rations from the tank, Aid?,” Nem asked.
Aid nodded and turned to the child. “I’ll be getting something for you and little Lily, too. I’ll be back in a bit.” He puts on his overcoat and gets out of the trench.
Minutes later, he returns with the rations to find all of them standing around a mound of dirt with candles lit above them.
“What’s going on, guys?” he looks at them with confusion.
They all just smiled eagerly at him; Lina included.
“…what is this, a cult meeting..?”
Nem shook her head. “Tut-tut-tut-tut-tut… I can’t believe someone actually forgot their own birthday today,” she giggled at the musings of it.
Aid stared dumbfounded for a few seconds.
“…Oh,” he pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed in shame.
“Well, to be honest, you kinda ruined our small surprise when you overextended our search, Aid,” Wainecroft, chuckled.
“Though we could understand. You were so focused on looking for that kid, you kinda forgot, didn’t you?” Tris nodded in sympathy.
“Still, why’d it have to be 11 hours of overtime?” Seria complained, kneeling in exhaustion.
“It kinda was your fault for not navigating well, you know?” Lancea butted in.
“Shut up, Lancey!”
Lina walked towards Aid with Lily in her arms. “Sorry, Sir Aid. You didn’t get to celebrate your birthday cake because of me.”
Aid pats her head in reply. “What are you talking about? Aren’t we celebrating it right now?”
He stands and looks at the rest of Squad 421. “Thanks, you guys.”
He then looks at the “mudcake.” A mound of dirt slightly wet from the snow, caked together with candles stuck on it. Carved onto the “cake” were the words, “Happy 18th Birthday, Aid.”
“Still though, I gotta say, this has to be the most HIDEOUS mudcake ever!” Aid laughed.
“Seria’s idea,” Nem poked fun further.
“AND handicraft,” Tris dealt the coup de grace.
“Gaaaah! I tried my best with what I have, okay?!”
Bonus: Aiden means “Little Fire,” not “Kotatsu”
Dec. 19, 430AR, 1:00am
Tris approached a sitting Aiden on first watch, inspecting his face. Noticing his fiery red eyes, she touched Aid’s forehead.
“What the heck..?”
“Wow, Nem, you’re right! Aiden DOES have higher temperature when his eyes are red!” She leans her back onto Aid’s side as if he was a pillow.
“Really? Ahhhhh.. Now I can sleep without having to worry about the fire,” Seria stretched her arms as she leaned her back onto Aid’s.
“That thing you called a ‘Divergence’ manifesting through your blood really does get useful outside of being a bloody slicer. Voluntary or not, at least you’ve got a way to deal with the winter,” Nem rests her back onto Aid’s other shoulder as well.
“Hey come on, don’t hog the heat,” Wainecroft finds a spot beside Nem, lugging his large body onto Aid’s comparatively smaller frame..
“So is this the secret to it, Aid? Does temperature equate charisma?” Pierce scratches his chin as he places his back on a spot near Tris.
Lancea quietly places her back onto Aid’s back as well.
Within seconds, the squad begins dozing.
“CAN’T I GET SOME PERSONAL SPACE, PLEASE?!”