A/N: Hey all! DBS here. Don't freak out!! I'm still working on Hitomi in Wonderland. Sudden inspiration can capture anyone, and today is my day, for it has captured me. As to what inspired me, I haven't a clue. Perhaps I was just thinking of the other Zaibach soldiers...the ones whose names are never known. So I began to write.
Before we get started, I would like to thank my good friend Azure Raelin for beta reading.
UPDATEThis is the revised version! Yay! - I finally got around to doing it, so there shouldn't be any typos and it's ten times better. Also, I've decided to split it into chapters. So...if you haven't already read it, you're gonna hafta wait. makes a face
Second Class Soldier
She scrambled to the ground along with the other soldiers and knelt. The elite were coming. Quickly, she averted her eyes to the ground. She saw their armored feet as they passed by. First two red, then many blue. Then nothing. They had passed. Sighing, she closed her eyes. Their presence made any soldier below their rank nervous. Their leader was diabolical, killing anyone and anything that made him the least bit angry. Even soldiers on his own command were not safe. Yet the girl kneeling among the ranks of Zaibach soldiers wanted to be under his command. She wanted to be one of the elite. She wanted to be a Dragon Slayer.
She was one of the children of Zaibach, an abandoned girl who had been taken in and trained under the empire's captains. It wasn't such a special case, however. Many of the Zaibach soldiers were orphans. In fact, if their whole family wasn't involved with Zaibach then they were. The only thing that was even half-special about her was that she was female. So little of the soldiers were women that she was surprised that Zaibach had even taken her in as a child. But her skills with a blade were shown even at her tender young age, and the captains and generals knew it to be pure talent, a talent that they needed in order to win their wars.
After what seemed like an age, the soldiers were allowed to rise. And thus, the march back to their own floating fortress began. They stepped together, creating a rhythm that echoed for miles around. But that was all that could be heard. No communication between soldiers was allowed during marches. That point was not too long ago made quite clearly when a soldier had spoken to his neighbor during a previous march. To the soldier's dismay, Lord Dilandau's sharp ears had heard him and the perpetrator were killed on the spot, quite gruesomely of course. That was Dilandau's style. The leader of the Dragon Slayers had ordered everyone to walk over the dead man's carcass. The girl had had to step on the murdered man's back. She had shut her eyes tightly as she did this because of the disgusting squelching sound it had made. The killing had really been that gruesome, you see.
Dilandau had looked at her then, as if surprised to find a woman among the ranks. But he must have realized it to be quite sensible, and walked away. But apparently he was not the only one to have been baffled. For during the present march, a boy marching next to the girl had been constantly staring. Suddenly, his eyes grew wide as he realized.
"A girl! You're a girl!"
The girl in question snapped her head up immediately, and, not want to see another soldier be slaughtered outside of a battle, she quickly elbowed the boy in the stomach which quite effectively knocked the wind out of him.
"Yes, I am a girl. So glad of you to notice." she whispered, while supporting the pained boy so that he did not collapse into the dirt. "My name is Akanè. But here is not the place to talk."
Gasping, he nodded. Akanè continued to support him, all the while studying his features. He seemed to be young, not surpassing the age of sixteen. His hair was short, spiky, and had a very dark color, but she was unable to tell if it was blue or black. His azure eyes were watering with pain, but even so she could see that he had a very childish countenance. Akanè got a sudden feeling of guilt as the boy held his abdomen where he had been elbowed. His armor had probably been pushed into it when Akanè had hit him. But she soon shook the feeling off. After all, she had saved his life. It was better to be in pain than in death.
Akanè herself was fifteen. Her hair was jet black, and her eyes a violet color. She had a sort of tan skin color that she assumed was inherited by her parents. Soldiers only really got to see sun when they were in battle. Akanè was very strong for a girl, which often surprised her male opponents. Her body was well built, but not disgustingly so. From a distance, she seemed to be a very pretty young woman. But any pervert who got too close to her came to the conclusion that she was both beautiful and deadly. Of course, this information is hard to comprehend with a dagger protruding from your back.
After another minute or so, the boy recovered and thanked Akanè, only to receive another pain in his stomach. This boy really needed to learn how to keep his mouth shut. Akanè found herself staring at his face again. He really was handsome, she decided. The boyish look on his face was extraordinarily cute. And with this simple thought, Akanè suddenly found her mind racing as she thought about the opposite sex, something she really wasn't used to.
"Psst. Psst! Akanè! I said that you could let me go now!"
She quickly took her hands off of the soldier. "Oh! Sorry! I was just, erm...I just didn't hear you is all! You were whispering and-" It was her turn to be elbowed. This was the boy's excuse to support her as she walked, causing her cheeks to tinge with the slightest bit of red. He smiled at this then turned his head to face forward again. They'd be in their fortress soon. Needless to say, there was much elbowing on the way there.
Now the soldiers were packed in the dining hall, eating what little food they had. Silently, of course. They did everything silently. It was believed by their emperor that socializing had nothing to do with fighting; either that or it worsened their performance. Akanè was in no hurry to break the rules, of course. She wanted to be elite, and those who were elite did not break the rules. With an exception of Dilandau, the one who spoke, killed, trained, and did whenever and whatever he wanted to. Yes, he had to be the most disobedient soldier in the entire empire. But he was special. She didn't know how, but he was. Maybe it was something to do with the teams of sorcerers that would go into the Vione on a regular basis.
She poked at her food with her dagger. It looked like all they had been served that day was a very lumpy potato, with a protein shake as a beverage. Well, next they'll just be feeding us twigs and tree branches, she thought bitterly. She looked around her. Other people were eating the meal. And nobody was dying. 'Fair enough.' She cut off a piece with her dagger and reluctantly took a bite. A look of pure disgust crossed her face. She took a swig of her protein shake to make the awful taste go away, but soon found that the drink tasted far worse than the food. She whimpered. Soldiers were expected to clean their plates because they needed their energy. That was the rule. Elite soldiers did not break the rules.
Suddenly, she became tense, and a shiver crept down her back. She had the sickening feeling that somebody was watching her. Maybe someone else was noticing the presence of a woman for the first time. Of course, it was a huge dining hall and anybody could be watching anyone else. She looked around the room without turning her head. Her eyes darted here and there until they locked with the boy who she had met earlier.
"Hello", he mouthed. She tore her eyes from his and stared down at her plate. Her plate and the lumpy potato stared back. Deciding what she'd rather stare at, she glanced back at the boy. But he was now looking down at his own plate, trying desperately to finish his own meal, and soon she figured out why. The doors to the hall were opening. The meal was over.
Frantically turning to her own plate, she cut the potato in half. She stabbed one half with her dagger and stuffed the whole piece into her mouth. 'Chew, woman, chew! ' She swallowed and moved on to the next piece. Looking at the doors, she noticed that everyone was filing out. She held her nose, gulped down her protein shake, took her plate and glass to the tubs of water at the side of the hall, then ran out of the doors with the rest of the picky eaters.
The next half an hour of the night was the only time the soldiers were ever allowed to speak with one another. The emperor must have thought that if they couldn't practice their language then they'd forget how to speak it. Akanè had no one to speak to, however. She didn't even know what to talk about. So she headed straight for her "room". Before she could get anywhere near it, however, someone pulled her to the side. The someone turned out to be the boy.
"Finally, I can talk to you without the threat of being murdered!" he said, grinning.
Akanè looked at him in surprise. "Smiling? Why are you smiling? We have nothing to smile about."
He laughed, putting his hand behind his head. "Of course we should be smiling! We should be happy! We are part of the Zaibach Empire, the empire that will be victorious in this war!"
"Of course we are on the winning side." she agreed. "Zaibach has no army filled with fools, fools that fill the armies of Austuria."
"Hmm. You have a point there. We have very strict rules and regulations."
"That is only to show that our emperor is more forceful, that he has more power than do the leaders of our opposing countries. Soldiers like you should know that. That is what we have been taught." She paused. "What is your name, anyway?"
"I am called Dayu, though I do not know if that is the name that my parents gave me. You see, I-"
"You're an orphan? Were abandoned as a child? Were found roaming through the streets and taken in by Zaibach? Yeah, same here. Most of us have the same story."
"Doesn't it seem sad to you? That our army is made up of orphans?"
"No, because now we are one huge family. Minus the love. Oh well. It's better than living on the streets."
"Well, on the streets you are free to talk when you wish and do what you want. There isn't anyone to stop you, is there?" said Dayu, smirking.
"What's so great about that?" Akanè snapped.
"Well, as an example.... If we weren't here in Zaibach, I could say everything that was on my mind right now. But of course, if I did say everything, you would have stormed off a long time ago, and I'd be on my knees holding my stomach again."
Akanè became tense. Sure, a bunch of thirty-year-old perverts in the army had hit on her before, but never someone so...attractive. She watched Dayu, who could only smile sheepishly. The pause in their conversation was ended as Dayu spoke again.
"I was so surprised when I saw you. I never had seen any women in this army before."
"Neither have I, but I know that they are there. Our army is a huge one. Never seeing another female soldier here in the Zaibach armies wouldn't surprise me. However..." She suddenly had great fascination for her feet and stared at them as she talked. "I have heard that Folken-sama has two elite soldiers under his command. Two elite soldiers who are...female..."
"Hey, it's always possible." assured the boy. Akanè looked back up at him. They both smiled. "I thought there wasn't a reason to smile." Dayu commented, a look of mock-seriousness on his face.
Akanè flushed. "Well then, I guess there is now. It's just that I've never really spoken to anyone else in the army before." Her feet became interesting again.
"Really? Well then, shall we call each other 'friend'?"
"I think that that would be nice."
"Great!" he said happily. He then looked around at the thinning crowds in the hallways. "Hmm. Maybe we should continue this conversation elsewhere?"
"Or continue it tomorrow. It takes me ten minutes to get to my 'room'. And that's how long there is left before we have to be in out of the halls."
"Well, okay. Look for me tomorrow." With that he retreated down the hall. Akanè smiled to herself as she walked in the opposite direction. She had made a friend, the first friend in her life. After the long trek across the fortress she stood in front of the door to her "room". The metal door slid open revealing nothing but a small table and a bed, which was basically a bench jutting out from the wall with a thin, dingy mattress sprawled over it. On the mattress was nothing but a sheet. There was no pillow. There was not even a candle to light. Fortunately, the lack of personal possessions kept Akanè from stumbling over anything in the dark. Her sword and armor were lying under the bed. She yawned, climbed under her covers, and instantly fell asleep.