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July 2500 
Graduation ceremony on Central Command, Asgard, Sanctuary.
07:55, 3 hours untill graduation.
Shino had awoken hours earlier, staring at the ceiling, waiting for her graduation ceremony. For her graduation, she had already gotten a tattoo from her squadmates, which, she, just a week before, had been forced to get. Shino was proud of it, although it wasn't anything special. It showed her efforts as the squad's unofficial 'mother' hadn't been for nothing, and it showed their gratitude.
With a small grunt of stress, Shino rose up from her cot. Her room was shared with a couple of other female soldiers-in-training. Although the post-modern civilisation had progressed since the Secession, there was always a risk of unwanted attention while changing clothing from ogling eyes. It didn’t bother Shino that much, but, Command wanted to be sure about that kind of thing not happening.
So, there was Shino, alongside a couple of her classmates from her years of training and following education as an up-and-coming soldier for the GFC. Although there were thousands of cadets and recruits on the Academy, Shino was one of the lucky few to be chosen for a paid scholarship, because of her driven nature to bring out the best in her, and those around her.
Her roommates were awake, although none of them felt quite ready to leave the place they had inhabited for up to five years. Shino herself had been there a little shorter than the others. Graduating from her Bachelor’s and Master’s of both Urban Tactics, Warfare, and History, as well as her general GFC training, was nothing short of a miracle, to some of the teachers.
The secret to Shino’s success, however, was nothing but pure determination, an internal drive to prove herself, and peer pressure. Long nights, early days, little to no dating, and keeping busy as much as possible to not lose the engine of productivity all helped get her reach these goals within five years.

Truth be told, however, Shino was on the verge of breaking down, both emotionally and physically. Large bags under her eyes, blisters on her feet, hands, and fatigue were starting to show.
With a large yawn, Shino rose to her full, not-so-impressive height, wearing only her underwear. The night had been too hot to actually wear pyjamas, and so, only dressed in a tank-top and shorts, she managed to stumble her way into the dorm showers, trying to quietly freshen herself up. The water started running, and Shino felt the water cool down her stiff muscles relax. Reaching for the shampoo bottle, she set about cleaning her body for the graduation ceremony.


Just shy of half an hour later, Shino emerged, wearing only towels around her middle and hair, looking at the wolf-tattoo on her back in appreciation. The blank ink was a stark contrast to her pale skin, which showed to bear several scars.
Thanks guys. It’s really cool. I’m glad you think this way of me. Let’s make this graduation one to never forget. We’ll be reunited with parents and friends soon enough, so let’s say our goodbyes for now, soon.

With a sigh, the She-Wolf dried herself with a towel, before dressing herself in lace underwear- she usually did not do that unless she wanted to feel like a woman, not a soldier. The black clothing fit her perfectly, the stark contrast putting emphasis on her pale skin. Back on Taelbern, that would be no less than normal. However, here on Sanctuary, that would be different, considering it’s climate was significantly warmer.

Even if the climate would give off a healthy tan soon enough, it meant spending less time to study and improve her skills, so Shino’d opted to remain inside, most of the time. she was in stark contrast to most of her squadmates, of which eat least half came from Sanctuary itself, and thus, sported a semi-decent tan naturally.

Getting herself ready to get dressed, Shino laid out her clothing in front of her on the cot. The GFC sported a general uniform which was displaying the colours of the Initiative, but, for graduation, allowed the cadets and recruits to display their home-planet’s colours, as long as their uniforms were of GFC/military standard.

The bottom of the outfit sported six-inch black heels, sleek and shiny, which Shino’d wear for the first time in forever. There generally wasn’t much necessity, or reason for her to wear them all that often, so walking in them would be a challenge. At least, for the first few hours.
Next came the skirt: the length reached to the knee, but wasn’t tight-fitting for it to block free movement, as long as it wasn’t too ungracious (meaning, it wasn’t the right article of clothing to go freerunning in). A light-brown, shining belt would hold the skirt in place, while the shirt that went on the torso would be tucked underneath the skirt.

Over that, would come the suit jacket, bearing her rank of recruit –but Private soon enough-, and displaying her Regimental name and Division. Shino already knew she’d be in the Second Division’s Fifth Regiment, meaning she’d be in the Mobile Infantry. Her name tag on the left breast of the uniform would display her name.
Finally, a beret would come to rest atop her hat, with the insignia of the 5th regiment. All that’d be missing was a sash for graduation, which she’d receive on the stage itself. Aside from the clothing, however, the recruits were allowed to go all-out for the ceremony.

So, Shino started dressing up in the Taelbern’s colours: a light hue of blue, to camouflage and blend into the surroundings. Her clothing was quickly fixed, and within five minutes, she was ready to go –at least, her clothing was in order. Her hair, however, was still wet, and she wished to do her make-up for once. It had been years since Shino had done it, and so, would enlist the help of one of her female colleagues.

‘Emily. Can you help me do my make-up? It’s been years, and I don’t want to ruin it right now.’ Shino asked Emily Black, a native from Pedras. Emily had a sharp nose, high cheekbones, and thin lips, giving her a reserved, if not stern look. She was, however, a sweet, and very easy-going girl to be around.

‘Sure, Sis. What’re you looking for?’ Emily chimed, while still pulling on her suit jacket. Most of the others had already left, not wasting any time and just wanting to go home after the gruelling years of being away from family.
‘Hm, just a light touch to accentuate my cheekbones, and mascara, eye-liner to make my eyes stand out a bit. As for lip-stick, just simple red will do. Can you do that?’ Shino asked, looking hopeful towards Emily, her long-time friend and study mate.
‘Yeah, sure. Just give me a minute to grab my stuff, and I’ll be right over. Go sit on the chair.’ she ordered, and Shino complied.

A few minutes later, Shino was being directed, touched, and worked over by the deft and trained hands of Emily, whose calloused hands from raw training, did not reduce her grace at all.
(E)mily  ‘I can’t believe it’s been five years already. I’ve not been to seen my family in at least two years!
(S)hino:’I know, right? It’s been well over four years for me. The leaves we get aren’t long enough to actually get to see my family for more than two days. Even though FTL is a huge help, catching up to family in two days is just not enough. I tried keeping In touch via digital and even analog messaging, but it’s been hard.’
E: ‘Yeah… I know what you mean. Are you alright, Sis? You look down.’
S: ‘Not really… I’ve had a wonderful time here, but I do miss my family terribly much.’

Shino’s eyes started tearing up as she thought about her family, but she managed to blink them back as Emily gently worked on her foundation, applying small amounts of the powder. Both of the girls had sad smiles on their faces. Emily had been chosen to serve in the First Division, while Shino was chosen for the Second.
‘Anyways, Shino, what do you think?’ Emily asked after a few minutes of thorough applying of make-up.
‘It’s great! Thanks, Em, you’re the best.’ Shino responded, looking Emily through the mirror, a huge smile on her face.
 ‘We’ll be stealing the show, today. Hey, what do you think about that cute Warrant Officer down on the third floor. Do you think he’ll be waving us off?’
‘Well… I maybe… I don’t know…’’

Emily and Shino kept talking for a while, until they saw it was time to get to the graduation ceremony, being held in one of the many halls of the Academy. Both of their families had been called upon to attend, because to graduate from one of the top-academies in the Initiative was always an honour.
The thirty recruits were standing at attention in front of the stage, all wearing their respective colours: some red, some green, some in brown, and some in blue. All of them were proud to represent the different planets in the Initiative, in a show of unity in diversity.
Shino’s platoon of recruits were looking at each other with a myriad emotions: some were happy to leave, because they simply missed their family. Others were sad, because they didn’t want to leave (yet), and others a mixture of many a emotion. Shino herself held hands with Emily, and Motembé, her two closest friends of her Master’s class. The three of them had come together in their pursuit of knowledge, their mind-sets allowing them to become a driving force of study and dedication.

Amidst the talking, and already crying recruits, one was out of formation: it was their teacher-slash-military instructor and mentor. The older Sergeant was walking up to the stage, receiving salutations, smiles, and even claps.
Once up on the stage, he saluted quickly, 30 pairs of feet clicking and stomping into formation. He smiled at the quick response to his salute, and he looked around the hall, bearing over four hundred people: siblings, parents, neighbours, teachers, friends, lovers, and anyone else that could spare the time or invitation to come.

He reached into a pocket, on which, in messy script, was a speech. The older sergeant stoked his impressive moustache, before speaking up.
‘Every year I see new recruits come, and older recruits go. It is an impressive, saddening, and joyful sight to see. Each and every one of these men and women, pledged their lives to the Initiative, its peoples, and its cultures.’
The sergeant frowned, before continuing.
‘I also prepare a speech every year. But, fuck it. I’ve done this exact same thing for twelve years now, multiple times a year.’ with those words spoken, he ripped his speech in half, soliciting gasps and laughs alike from the crowd gathered.
‘I have to say, however, that this year’s class, has made me age faster than I’d like. Some of them I had to whip them into shape, mould them from start to finish. Others, I had to correct a thousand times. Looking at you, Williams!’ The sergeant started mockingly at the recruit, whose cheeks instantly reddened.
‘Williams, however, pulled himself together in just a few weeks, and managed to become one of the top-5 shooters of this platoon. Congratulations, Williams.’

A series of jubilant screams and congratulatory yells echoed through spacious Hall.
‘However, that is not the only one that receives my praise. As you recruits know, I am stern, and not easy to please. But you know I do it because I wish for you all to be the very best you can be. Am I clear about that, kids?’
‘Sir yes sir!’ Shino shouted, while saluting once more. The others in her platoon also followed up, in an almost unified voice.
The sergeant smiled, and nodded appreciatively.
‘As I said, I can be proud of Williams, but I am damn proud of every single one of you. Motembé, your essay on exploration beyond the Initiative was of astonishing quality, and is a testament to your sharp mind, and debating skills.’
‘Thank you sir!” the slightly accented voice of Motembé sounded across the hall, at which, his siblings yelled in unision. ‘Now that’s our big brother!’
Motembé, at this, saluted, his eyes teary already. He had worked so hard to reach this point, and he didn’t realise his siblings had been able to come. He cried openly and shamelessly in front of the entire hall. But he was not alone. Soon, Emily, and some of the others, started crying, too. Everyone knew that Motembé had to sacrifice a lot to come to the Academy.
Shino, however, still held his hand, although she remained in formation. his trembling hand, huge in comparison to hers, made Shino’s arm tremble as well.

‘Jackson, well done on your Tactics test. You failed it three years in a row, but managed to pull it off, when no-one believed you would. Your determination will define you, not the lack of faith others have.’ Jackson yelled a thank you, and smiled broadly, and proudly, receiving congratulatory slurs.
This went on for some time, as multiple names were called off. Most were from the Bachelor’s and GFC training, but, at last, came the time for the remaining five of the platoon to receive praise.
‘Emily Black. You completed your Master’s through perseverance and hard work. Well done on your thesis on Social ethics. You not only compared the pre-Secession cultural norms, but also showed considerable effort into the ethical aftermath of the shifts since then. Bloody well done.’ the sergeant said, brimming with pride.

Shino could swear she saw his moustache tremble in pure joy. Emily, standing next to her, cried out, and immediately jumped into Shino’s arms, the both of them now happily dancing circles of pure joy. Emily’s cries of laughter spurring Shino into joining her.
While the two of them were completely occupied, Shino’s family finally found their daughter and big sister in the formation, her face lit up in the spotlight, as it had switched from the previous one to receive praise, onto Emily. The sergeant coughed, and continued, as slowly, the two girls quietened down.

And, at long last, it was Shino’s turn. The sergeant smiled for a bit, and took something out of his pocket. He smiled, and unfolded the new paper, while the spotlight slowly shifted to reveal Shino, fully. The entire platoon shifted to place Shino in their midst: twenty-nine proud recruits, teary-eyed, smiles, and straight backs, aligned side-by-side, saluted Shino.
‘While the last one to receive praise was studying yet again, and preparing for the graduation ceremony, her platoon members came to me, in pairs, alone, or by squad, to convince me to write a speech, solely for her. Now I’m not one to be sentimental and play favourites, but, in this case, I just had to cave. The one I am speaking about, is the one and only She-Wolf.’
With a smile, the sergeant beckoned for Shino to come up on the stage. The platoon members parted before her, and aligned themselves to stand at her back, leaving Shino to wonder what the hell was going on.
‘Come, Wolf. It’s time for your praise. Up on the stage.’ the sergeant said, and beckoned more insistently.

Shino, as if stunned, sheepishly walked up to the stage, and with each step she took, another recruit snapped to attention again. Twenty nine pairs of heels stomped on the floor, while the recruits snapped off brisk salutes before standing at ease.
Shino saluted the group, and her sergeant, once she stood beside the speaker’s booth, while the sergeant beamed.
‘Shino. She-Wolf. Sis. Bookworm. You have many names already, and you have not even received your official rank yet. You truly beat any expectations I might’ve had about you. When you came in, you were timid, like most of the platoon of recruits here. However, you were the first to learn how to tie knots, to cook like a soldier, to adapt to your situation.’
With a small pause, the sergeant continued.

‘You managed to whip even the most useless recruits –like Jackson- into shape, and managed to help him find his calling. You’re a lousy shot, but you sniped many a talent in others. You cared for your squadmates, hell, your platoon in its entirety, more than even a parent would his child.’
This elicited laughs from the recruits, some mimicking a whining child calling out for their mother.
‘You’ve shown the recruits here that you can do anything you set your mind to. You showed them just about every quality you need to be a soldier, a police officer, and in general, a decent human being. Albeit rough around the edges, and somewhat unrefined (laughter erupts), you came through when they needed you.’

‘You kept going on, when everyone else stopped. You didn’t lose patience, and kept egging everyone on. So I am damn proud to say, that you, have exceeded the expectations you set for yourself, the expectations I had for you, and your comrades had for you. You are the first recruit to manage to keep the entire platoon from cadet, to recruit, to private, intact. Never before, have I seen all of the platoon members, stay.’
The sergeant ripped the speech in half, and turned to face Shino.
‘Shino. On behalf of the GFC, the Academy, and your platoon, I salute you, thank you, and praise you, for your hard work, motivation, and perseverance. You truly are an inspiration to us all.’ at this, Shino expected a salute, but instead, the sergeant walked up to her, and he embraced her softly. He was far taller than her, and she could feel his arms trembling as they went around her body.

She herself, stood stunned for a few seconds before returning the embrace. Everything went silent for a few seconds. Nobody had expected to see the sergeant show this much affection to his students. When he finally released her, his ears had grown teary.
 ‘Damn it. I try so hard, every year, to not cry when I see my kids go from being a recruit, to a professional, trained soldier. Knowing what they will no doubt be subjected to, I am not only filled with pride, but also sadness, at their conviction. I see myself as a parent to these kids, so it is as hard for me to watch them go off to combat, as it is for their actual parents. You all, truly, amazing in your own way.’
With a last look to the platoon, the sergeant sighed.

‘Once more, I would like all of the recruits to join me on the stage, to be congratulated.’
Slowly the platoon made their way up to the stage. Unbeknownst to Shino, both of her siblings had already been sneaking down past the tribunes. The names were being called off again, a myriad of cheers, and tears sounding and falling yet again, until it was Shino’s turn.
‘Recruit Shino Wolf, step forward, so that you may-‘
‘-Sis! Sis!’ cried both of her siblings as they rushed up the stage. Both of the nine-year-olds ran straight into Shino’s arms, who forgot everything around her, except the two precious children in front of her.

‘John… Sasha… My god…’ Shino’s voice cracked, and stopped in her throat, as she simply fell down to her knees with a dull thud, and her siblings crying. Their small arms wrapped themselves around her as she cried alongside them, the premature reunion too much to handle.
‘John… Sasha… Why… Couldn’t you… wait…’ Shino sobbed between happy tears, and choking words.
‘Because we missed you! You big dummy!’ the both of them cried out as they peppered her with kisses.
‘Damn it you two! Stop it!’ came the loud voice of Balder, Shino’s father, as he made his way up to the stage, his arm around his wife.
‘Children, you could’ve waited a little longer, no? After four years, just five minutes matters little, does it?’ Haruno tried scolding the children, but she was also crying, and already reaching for her three beautiful children. Balder was also reaching for them, and soon, not only the five of them were crying, but so was the majority of the hall.

Most of these people hadn’t seen their families in years, and seeing the reunion of the Wolf household, it spurred them on. Within minutes, the entire hall was in a cacophony of crying, yelling, joyful laughter, and a frantic sergeant trying to restore some semblance of ceremony. None of that was to be, however, as he soon gave up, and just handed out the ranks, weaving his way through the crowd, speaking with each and every one.
‘Sis, when’re you coming home?’ asked John, holding Shino’s hand in both of his smaller hands.
‘Soon, little brother. Soon. I just need to pack, and then I’ll be back for a while, okay?’ Shino said, smiling happily at her brother with fresh tears still staining her face’s now mascara-filled cheeks.
‘I just… Missed you all so much… Let’s… Let’s just go home, okay? All of us.’ Shino said, not wanting to waste any more words on her family. The reunion was much more emotional than any of them had thought it would be, and it left them all speechless.

Balder, composing himself momentarily, tried to put on a brave face, and grunted his approval.
‘Let’s go, my dearest. Let’s go home.’
Home… I haven’t been there in years… How will it look? Can I still call it home? I’ve… I’ve been away for so long… God… I missed them so much. Shino thought, as she, guided by both her younger siblings, left the hall, making their way to pick up Shino’s belongings, before returning to Taelbern.

Home. Just like the Academy was her home.

With a last smile at the Academy, the white stone of the statuesque building shimmering in the summer heat, Shino felt a tear drop, as she silently bade the building, and her life of the past five years, farewell. With a new-found sense of melancholy, she spoke.

‘Goodbye… Home…’