It proved wise indeed for the Champions to have chosen to rest, given their early summons the very next morning. Neither one of them had wanted to rouse so early, but after a moments consideration they both seemed to agree that the Elders would not have asked for them without good reason.
“C’mon.” Aria mumbled, nudging her husband gently with her foot as she fought to banish the groggy haze of sleep from her own mind. “We shouldn't keep them waiting.”
Initially, her suggestion was met with a protesting grumble as he rolled over, pulling the covers tighter around his body.
“Few more minutes….then we can go, need more sleep…”
“Not if we're gonna get changed first.” this, too, Yerbol had tiredly protested against, until his wife sat up and raised a quizzical eyebrow at him.
“You're going to go dressed like THAT?”
“Wha’s wrong with what I'm wearing?” he grumbled, half sitting up and peering at her skeptically.
“Do you really want to discuss the odds of how many cameras are going to turn up to this service? Cause I can make an inferred guess that the answer is “a LOT”, Bol.”
Her observation seemed to win him over, the Champions dragging themselves from the comfort of the bed to change their attire to something more appropriate for the occasion.
If Matt’s estimate was to be believed, Aria was profusely glad that she had insisted they changed. It wouldn’t do any good to look like a pair of vagabonds in front of the Chancellor, after all. Maybe she DID inherit some of her mother’s talent for public speaking and all the drawl that came with it, after all. She turned to offer Malu her own nod of gratitude.
“We do very much appreciate it, thank you. It...wouldn’t be right not to say anything and I don’t know if I could in front of so many.” she’d never admit it but whenever there were cameras involved Aria found herself often prone to developing sudden and debilitating stage fright. Perhaps it was the feeling of constantly being judged or having more than just the “in-the-flesh” audience hanging on one’s every word, but who could say-
Kira broke into her wayward train of thoughts, offering some heartfelt sentiments on the deceased Elder’s opinion of herself and Yerbol. The Champion couldn’t help but to offer Kira a watery smile.
“Thanks Kira, it...means a lot to hear that.” even if it wasn’t from Voldon’s mouth directly, it was comforting...an honor, even, in a way, to know that he had thought so highly of them. “I only hope we continue to live up to those expectations…” a glance was thrown towards the coffin. “I suppose that’s the best we can do for him, now. Keep upholding what he helped us to build and make sure the Qyaari carry on for a long time to come.”
“Tsk, you sound just like him already.” Cheriss huffed querulously, though despite the Elder’s gruff tone there was a glimmer of fondness in her eyes as she spoke. Her demeanour, too, told of an inner turmoil of emotions that she fought to hide from her companions - her arms crossed tightly across her torso and shoulders hunched tensely, as if she were shrinking away from an unseen chill in the air. At mention of the events crew, Aria swallowed and nodded in response, although she hung back as Yerbol drifted a bit closer to the coffin to say his own words in deference to the fallen Elder. In truth, she wasn’t really sure what else she COULD say, flowery speeches had never been her forte, and yet Voldon had been such an integral being to much of the Champions’ training that she felt she couldn’t walk away without saying anything at all. As Yerbol appeared to conclude whatever he had been saying, Aria herself stepped forward and dropped onto one knee beside the coffin. The Champion heaved a quiet sigh, a short moment of contemplative silence following before she managed to find the correct words.
“I’m glad that we made you proud....and honoured to have fought beside you.” like the others, Aria spoke barely at a whisper, the words were meant only for Voldon - if his spirit could indeed hear them, wherever it was at this moment - and not for any other ears. “I don’t know what we’re going to do without you...but I suppose if you were here you would have told me that was ‘part of the learning process’, wouldn’t you?” a fond smile creased her features. “I just hope that whatever happens, you’ll still be proud of wherever the Qyaari go from here. We couldn’t have started this without you, but I promise you that I’ll do everything I can to make sure our legacy lives on, until I’m ready to join you.” swiping a hand across her eyes to rid them of any potential moisture that had built up, Aria rose to her feet and turned back to the other Qyaari members, nodding her head.
“Well then, I suppose we’d better make sure we’re ready for their arrival.”
The preparations themselves went as smoothly as they could have hoped. Every student at the Academy stood at the ready and willing to follow any instructions given: for tasks varying from sweeping leaves out of the gutters and clearing the pathways to various entrances, to laying out cutlery and table placings along the lengths of the tables in the dining hall (this was quite a feat in and of itself, taking the Champions, a Knight and a gaggle of ten younglings to fully complete).
By the time they were satisfied the interior of the building looked presentable enough for their visitors and returned to the meditation garden where the main portion of the service would be held, Ailel and Malu were hanging up the last of the bouquets while the older students helped them put the finishing touches to the aesthetics. Neither Kira nor Cheriss were anywhere to be seen. Aria certainly wouldn't have blamed the redheaded Knight if she chose not to attend the memorial at all.
“It looks...nice.” Aria managed as they approached the Elders.
“We hope so.” Ailel agreed, sighing as the whine of a hyperdrive engine echoed from overhead. The Qyaari in the garden all looked up as the transport broke the atmosphere, following the guide beacons into the safe landing zone. “That'll be the first of the guests, I imagine.” The Elder announced, dusting off the front of her robe. “We'd better round up the younglings and let the other Elders know.” she turned towards the Champions, offering a slight smile. “I think Cheriss will want you to come with her to greet the Chancellor, so you two had best prepare yourselves as well.”
Aria couldn't help but roll her eyes.
You know, sometimes I think they force us into these political meetings on purpose...can you even remember the last time we WEREN'T asked to be in attendance? Somehow, I don't think it's just because we've saved the galaxy a few times.