Istina: Before I Say Goodbye

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Operator Record
Before I Say Goodbye
Istina icon.png

Even if we do have to say goodbye someday, I'll still be protecting us, down to the last girl.

Unlock conditions

  • Raise Istina to Elite 2 Level 60.
  • Have 200% Trust with Istina.
Characters
Reserve Operator - Caster icon.png
HR Operator
Rhodes Island Driver
Backgrounds
RI Room
1
RI Corridor
2
Living Room
3
Desert
4
Having settled into Rhodes Island life along with her comrades, Istina receives an unexpected letter from Leithanien.
<Background 1>
Gummy Umm... which one should I wear?
This one's sort of tight, but this one has kind of short sleeves. This is the first time I've ever had so much trouble picking clothes!
I used to just wear whatever I found...
Istina ......
How about this one, perhaps?
Gummy Oh... I remember this. Rosa bought it for me... I bet Mama and Papa would say it's pretty, wouldn't they?
Nff, unf... mmrgh...
[Gummy puts on the top.]
Istina L... Lada, I think you might have it on backwards? Your hood's ended up in front...
Here, I'll turn it around for you.
[Istina turns around the top.]
Gummy Hehe. Thanks, Istina!
Istina Honestly.
You're finally seeing your Mama and Papa after so long, and yet you're still so clumsy as you've always been. Will this even do?
Gummy ...Mm.
I know! It's okay. It's all okay as long as I can see them!
I've recorded all my stories with you and the girls in my books, and I'm going to tell them every single one! And I took a lot of pictures of life at Rhodes! My photo album's thiiis thick!
Also... this! It's a present for them.
Istina Cookie molds...? What shapes are these supposed to be...?
Gummy Hehe, they're all my dearest friends! This one reading is you, Istina, and this one with the headphones is Zima, and the one with the wonky hat is Rosa...
Istina Er, and this horned one...? It can't be Rosalind, can it?
Gummy No, that one's Uncle Matterhorn... He spent forever teaching me when I was learning how to make molds, so I put him into the set too!
Leto's is this one with the honey pot!
Istina ......
All quite detailed, too. You've put a lot of care into these, Lada... Er, don't you have a design for yourself?
Gummy Hm? If Mama and Papa get to see me and everything... then would they need a mold for me?
They'll have the real Gummy with them in the flesh, so they won't mind!
Oh, yeah... Istina, what presents are you giving your Mama and Papa?
Istina Ah... me?
I... haven't been through the process yet.
You see, suddenly learning they're still alive, and that we can meet again on top of that... It just strikes me as slightly unreal.
Gummy Unreal...? I don't get it...
When I heard they found my parents, I got so happy I couldn't sleep for days, you know!
Istina I'm very happy too... and very excited, and I'd love to take to them right this instant. But...
Our fraught flight from Chernobog, all the things we went through... then our coming to Rhodes Island, and all after that—we've spent so long living life together.
What news we had of them before never, in the end, went anywhere. If... just if, this time is the same...
Gummy ......
Istina ......
*sigh*.
Never mind that. We've found them, so... no overthinking it. Let's just sort ourselves out.
<Background 2>
Zima Lada.
[Zima angrily knocks on Gummy's door.]
Zima Lada! Open the damn door!
[Zima knocks louder.]
Leto Whoa, whoa, whoa, keep it down, wait... Come on, what's this about? Are you just gonna go until you smash the thing open?
Istina Sonya...
Leto Sonya!
Zima ......
Rosa Allow me.
[Rosa gently knocks Gummy's door.]
Rosa Lada, would you kindly open the door? Everyone's very worried about you.
You've gone almost two days without eating anything... If you keep depriving yourself of sleep like this until your mother and father do come to visit you, you won't even have the energy to greet them. That's no way to...
The dormitory door remains shut. Not a whisper comes. Not a sound answers.
Zima Enough, Natalya.
The HR guys said they double-checked and everything. The word on Lada's parents was just another bust. This isn't even the first time they've screwed her hopes up.
All of us know how goddamned lucky we were to survive Chernobog. Finding our parents and crap... I just think the sooner we get real, the better.
No more giving Lada false hope like that.
Istina ......
Leto Uh...
Lada's 'rents were off in some other city doing research, right? So we haven't pinned them down yet, whatever. Sooner or later we're gonna find them!
And anyway, didn't you get word on your folks too, Anna?
Istina ...Yes.
But given Lada's circumstances, I'm supposing the information about my parents was just as inaccurate.
Rosa ...Anna.
Istina It's fine. Even if they are mistaken, it's not as if it means much to me... I suppose.
Zima & Leto ......
Istina Enough, no need to give me those looks. I can tell you're worried I'll take it as badly as Lada has.
But look how long we've kept ourselves going already. Even a guarantee that we'd never see our parents again wouldn't turn our lives upside down, would it?
[Istina knocks on Gummy's door.]
Istina *breathes*... Lada, it's okay.
If you want to stay inside, then please, rest well, and get a good night's sleep.
If you feel restless, come find me. We can take some more pictures... If your album is all full up, we'll buy a new one.
Or maybe we could draw together? We'll draw those gingerbread monsters we read about, or maybe that huge house the likes of which we'd never imagined, to fit all five of us...
With a boxing ring, so Sonya and Rosalind can fight to their hearts' content. And a kitchen with an extra-large oven, so Natalya and I can bake cakes with you, and decorate them all in brand new ways.
And remember when you told me, you'd build me a room to fit mountains and mountains of books—
[An operator comes running.]
HR Operator *huff*... *huff*... Finally. Here you are...
Istina, letter for you...
Istina ......
For me?
HR Operator Yep, it just arrived. And the Messenger specifically asked us to get it to you, ASAP...
Istina (The envelope seems fresh; I can still discern traces of overapplied glue on the seal. The inscribed Ursine seems somewhat familiar...)
(The flourish and elegance on this Ursine hand. Something tells me I've seen this before, on the papers of my father's desk, and the annotations in the books by my mother's pillow.)
(Strange. My heart's suddenly pounding...)
(Can it be? It can't, can it...?)
Is this letter... from my parents?
HR Operator We've inspected, audited and scrutinized, and we can absolutely, positively guarantee. This time, it all lines up.
Rhodes Island's established contact with your parents at a Leithanian branch office... This letter was mailed by them, firsthand.
<Background 1>
Istina ......
Ah... ah—
[Istina starts a recording.]
Istina What follows is my 65th recording of self-diagnosis and treatment of trauma via in vivo exposure therapy.
*exhale*—
I'm not dreaming after all.
My parents—are still alive. They're in Leithanien.
They wrote to me that whenever I'm ready, I can go back to living with them anytime.
Hm...
I'd honestly... never given much thought to the question. Of whether they were alive or dead...
Every time the notion came to me, I'd divert my attention as fast as I could.
I was so sure that they were working at the Government House, and central Chernobog had taken the worst of the damage...
What happened to them had always been plain as day, to me. Frittering energy on getting to the bottom of it would've been meaningless.
But...
(Deep breath)
Under the supposition that I could never reunite with my parents again, I stayed aboard Rhodes Island, together with Sonya's group.
We took Rhodes Island as a new beginning.
I even drew up a thorough daily schedule for the long-term, so that we could accustom ourselves to our new lives quicker, and so that we could break ourselves free from that nightmare sooner.
We've been studying here, working here, taking part in what missions we can here, and we've been doing well for ourselves.
We've finally been able to... dream a little, about our future...
But... now I've gotten word from my parents out of nowhere. And they're suddenly telling me, I can leave everything behind right now and go back to them, be back with them, just like how it used to be.
What should I do? Should I leave? Leave Rhodes Island, and my USSG comrades...?
If perhaps Lada, or Sonya had been the first to find their families again... what would they have done?
Lada's always missed her own Mama and Papa so much, and Sonya may not seem to care, but she, too...
Right... a letter. I can write back to them for now.
Tell them I'm not ready to go, for the time being... that I want to stay here.
[Istina stops the recording. Shortly after, someone knocks on her door.]
Istina Come in—
[Zima enters.]
Zima Anna, you in for dinner? Rosalind says she's treating—
...You writing a letter?
Istina Mm.
Zima To your parents?
Istina Yes.
Zima ......
*sigh*...
Istina Sonya, does this part sound right to you? I'll read it out loud...
Zima I don't wanna hear it.
Istina ......
Zima I don't get it is the thing, Anna. If you've got something to tell 'em, just say it to their faces.
Me, all I'd write is—"Got it. Wait till I get back."
There, done! Wasn't that easy?!
Istina ......
I don't have plans to go to Leithanien at the moment. That's what I'm mulling over how to phrase.
Zima Huh?
You're not going?
[Zima kicks the door.]
Zima Blyat'! Are you kidding me!?!
Istina Er...
I was helping to sort out the Reception Room visitor files over the next two days, and I still need to write those few book reviews I promised Heidi...
And Rhodes Island's curriculum does demand. There may be no exams, but we won't get away with any less than a good grasp of the knowledge.
And further, didn't we agree that Instructor Dobermann would take us through mission drills next week? The USSG still has plenty on its roadmap for the next six months of operator training, and I imagine...
Zima Yeah, is this about Lada?
Istina ......
Zima If it is, you really don't gotta bother.
Istina Lada's... always wanted to see her parents, but we've never found them, and now I've found mine before she...
Zima The hell does it matter that you found yours first? You don't wanna see 'em?
Istina ...Of course I do. But—coming to Rhodes Island marked the point where I accepted we could never go back to our old lives.
What we should do in the now, where we should go in the future; those have been the persistent factors in my head...
And going back, becoming the apple of my mother's and father's eyes again, the secondary school student—it never crossed my mind.
In fact, how could it?
Knowing they're alive, and doing well, that's enough for me. That's enough to keep me happy for a very long time.
I can maintain a mail correspondence with them for now. We can show each other how we're doing through photographs... and then come vacation, I'll go and see them.
Zima ...Anna.
I'm gonna be honest, I've never you this confused and screwed up worrying. Not even in Peterheim.
I mean, look at yourself. Who'd guess you just got the biggest, best news of your life?
Doesn't matter what you pick in the end—parents, education, work, our future... All of them matter.
But you've gotta figure out, to you, what's most important of all, right now.
And you don't have to worry about us like that. We're all doing fine on Rhodes.
Look at Lada. She holed up in her room for days, but today, she's gone to the kitchen to tinker out new veggie bakes with Hibiscus.
I passed by the cafeteria just now, and they were laughing the roof off! Lucky I could sprint away...
Istina ......
Pfft.
Zima What's so funny? You wanna try their thing? Green pepper and horned melon in molten piroshki? That sound good to you?
Istina No, something just strikes me different about you today, Sonya. It's like... you're much more talkative, perhaps?
The Sonya I used to know would've torn up my letter and dragged me off in a rush... with probably nothing to add but a "quit overthinking, it's a pain in the ass."
You've learned how to comfort people.
Zima ...Goddammit.
[Istina tears up the letter.]
Zima Wait... the hell? What are you tearing it up yourself for?
Istina I'm taking your advice.
I'm considering, first and foremost, what's most important to me.
<Background 3>
Zima Hey, hey, no backsies! We agreed this was the last round, right? And I dunno if you saw, but I clearly won!
Leto Hah, hahahhh *belch*... Sonya, just drink, yeah? That glass, that you just drank before, iiiit doesn't count!
Cause now, now you, haven't drunk this one... so now you, gotta drink it! Urp... *belch*!
Zima ......
Rosalind!
I'm freaking done here, this is gonna go on forever! Next time, don't care what she says, we don't let her buy that much honey...
Natalya, you drink with her.
Rosa Me...? Well, I'm not too fond of honey, you see... I don't even add any to my tea.
Zima Huh? Whaaat, don't tell me you've NEVER tried chugging honey before?
C'mere—
Rosa W—Wait a seconnmmphh...
Istina ......
(Somehow, I feel like this "farewell party" for me was just a pretense for them to make a ruckus.)
(Still... this isn't too bad, is it?)
Gummy Istina... here, these are for you!
Istina Eh? For me?
Weren't you going to give these molds to your Mama and Papa?
Gummy Oh, umm... I don't get to see them now, do I...? So giving them to you works!
Istina But... won't you have nothing to give the next time you hear about them?
Gummy Hehe! I can make new ones then, it won't take that long!
Look!
Istina It's carrying a frying pan... is this you, Lada?
Gummy Mmhm! I made it brand-new! Now there's molds for all five of us.
When you go home, you can take Gummy and Zima and everyone else with you!
Istina Lada...
Thank you. Once I'm back, I'll have a little present for you too.
Zima ......
Wait... Anna, you're coming back?
Istina Erm... I am.
I'm staying with my parents for a while, and then I'll return.
Leto Huh? Hey, you found your family, go start a new life with them, what are you coming back to... urp—*hic*.
Istina Rosalind, it's not that simple...
Is returning to their side going to begin life anew, just like that?
Zima Is it not?
Istina ......
You can't all think that me leaving Rhodes Island is the better option?
Rosa & Gummy (Nod)
Rosa Not necessarily the better option, but it is at least an additional one.
Rhodes Island is a fine place, and gave us shelter. But it's because we had nowhere else to go that it became our best option.
But, Anna, things are now different for you.
Istina ......
Rosa And besides, wouldn't you imagine that we've all since steeled ourselves for someone to inevitably leave?
Istina Even if we do have to say goodbye someday, I'll still be protecting us, down to the last girl.
Zima ...Anna.
I guess you might still be worrying about our feelings. But honestly, you finding your family makes us all pretty happy.
Gummy Yeah! You got to find your Mama and Papa, so Gummy's gonna find hers one day too!
And I think it's gonna be even better for you if you leave Rhodes Island!
Istina ......
Gummy Umm, it's like...
Well... if I stay here, then I can probably become an amazing cook, and Zima and Leto and Rosa can all be generals in the field...
But you'd probably wanna go back to your Mama and Papa, so you can go back to school and study, right?
Zima I bet your parents are gonna have your acceptance stuff all filed by the time you hit Leithanien. All you gotta do is put on your backpack and head to school, just like back in Chernobog.
And you can live like none of that crap ever happened.
Istina ......
How can I possibly pretend that...?
Sonya. Does starting over really become the best choice in your eyes, the moment you get the opportunity?
Zima ...Ugh.
Well, not for me.
Istina Then all the same, it isn't for me, either.
My decision is made. I'll go there, I'll see how my parents are doing, I'll see if age has taken its toll.
And... I'll likely tell them how dark it was for me in Peterheim, and how I and a group of dependable friends pulled ourselves through it.
And of course, I'll tell them about Rhodes Island. Lada and I have taken countless photos, enough to let them picture our lives here.
And then... I want to ask them and find out, after however they escaped Chernobog, however they reached Leithanien... after all this time, did they ever try searching for me?
Rosa Anna, this'll take up so much of the time you have.
You can stay with your parents in your new home, and work out your questions as things come. Nothing's asking you to rush back so quickly.
Istina Mm. All of this can be solved as it comes. But none of it is the crux of what I'm going back for.
(Deep breath)
What's most important—is that I convince them, talk them into letting me back to Rhodes Island, letting me stay with my comrades.
<Background 4>
Rhodes Island Driver So... we looked over that old lady's credentials, and noticed she had the surname Morozova, AND she came in from Chernobog!
And searching for someone in Leithanien who's from Chernobog, that's a back-breaker.
Istina ......
Rhodes Island Driver Luckily, or maybe it was just our dang luck, they were living around the Rhodes Island branch office and came right in to see us that day, because Mrs. Morozova had a bit of a toothache, and they thought our office was a dentist...
...and then we learned. Most everyone else treated the events at Peterheim Middle School as... a lost cause.
But your mom and dad, they never gave up on searching for you.
Istina ...*exhale*.
So, are they doing well...? What is the place they're living like? Do they have new jobs?
Rhodes Island Driver Mmm, they're good enough. The office's doc has sharp skills, so your mom's tooth won't be aching for the time being at least.
Once you're there, you can find out the rest for yourself. Take your time.
Istina Alright, I see. Thank you so much for going out of your way to take me.
Rhodes Island Driver Don't mention it, you're pretty much on the way. I make regular trips from the landship to branches all over, 'porting goods, linking up with missions.
And hey, you're not the first I've chauffeured from the landship.
Istina ......
Then...
Could you tell me how many you've sent... back to the landship?
[The driver stops the car.]
Rhodes Island Driver Huh?
<Background 1>
[Istina starts a recording.]
Istina ......
This is... Rhodes Island.
I've returned here again, as I hoped to.
On the road to Leithanien, I imagined my reunion with my parents under countless different circumstances... imagined how to convey my decision to them, and show how I'd grown...
But the moment I met them, all the imagining I'd done was pointless. We hugged, we leaned on each other, and then we told one another how our lives had been while we were apart... It was all so natural.
The day I arrived, Papa insisted he'd cook, wanting to make me shchi to bring back the taste of home. After going through several markets, we never found the yellow onions, so we had to buy wild ones to substitute...
It was my first time eating wild onion shchi, and the taste wasn't unbearable... just somewhat pungent.
They loved Lada's gift, and we used the molds to bake cookies, an endless amount. We spent days eating them...
I mentioned Lada's food was delicious, and Papa seemed to take it personally, insisting he'd find some time to compete with her...
Oh, right. After the stories I told them and the photos I brought, they know every member of the USSG by name now.
What I didn't expect was how wholeheartedly they'd agree to let me stay aboard Rhodes Island. They insisted on giving me an absurd amount of Leithanian things too, to take back to my friends.
They've all been shared out among the USSG now. You could say... "polished off" without a trace.
Everything's gone so smoothly. Maybe even a little too smoothly...
(Deep breath)
Well, then. "Self-diagnosis and treatment" no. 66 ends here.
[Istina ends the recording.]
Istina ......
Surely enough, I do mind a little.
My parents understand and support my decision, but they've expressed their worries and hangups too. They even raised a potential concern I'd never considered before.
"What if, in the future, the Self-Government's members all leave Rhodes Island and choose to go their separate ways, to separate places? What do you think you'll do?"
I'll... will I go to Leithanien? Or continue staying aboard Rhodes Island? Or maybe...
*sigh*...
At least, for now, my parents are highly supportive, and my comrades are still by my side. As for what follows... from here on, I'll want to work out my future plans.
......
Huh? Where's my comms terminal?
[Istina looks under her bed.]
Istina There it is... what was it doing under my bed?
If I recall correctly... Closure's contact is...
[Istina gets a call.]
Istina Waagh... why ring now of all times...?
Hello? Ah... it's Closure.
The camcorder? Yes, it was me who borrowed it... No, no need! I'm already done, I'll return it in just a moment...
......
Say, Closure...
That thing you mentioned before. The one about helping out in the filing room... I'm very thankful you trust me so much.
If it's okay... I'm willing to give it a try.