Final Dream – Chapter One - Impressive

Horo smiled broadly, simply buzzing with excitement as he slipped into his uniform. It wasn't just anyone who made it into this training camp, and here he was, living his childhood dream.

"Excited, eh, Horokeu?" his team commander asked with a grin.

"Yup! I've waited all my life for this day, sir!" he beamed happily and saluted.

"Horo, how many times must I tell you to call me Zak?" the older boy asked, chuckling at the antics of the younger boy.

"Sorry, sir, I mean Zak. What's the plan for today, then?" he asked.

"We go to a briefing by the tight-ass general himself and then it's off to the first day of training." Zak muttered.

"Seriously? We're really going to see General Tao Ren? THE General Tao Ren?" Horo asked in shock.

"You bet your ass we are. He really isn't as great as you make him out to be." the First-Class brunette SHAMAN informed him.

"I can't believe it. I've always had the goal of being a member of SHAMAN, the elite troops of the Patch Inc. army, but after the general grew to be so famous, I just wanted to be like him. I... I can't believe I actually have the chance to see him, flesh and blood, not just a picture." the bluenette whispered. Zak snorted.

"Yeah, yeah. I've heard all the little fan boys in Ren's club with all their warming tales of dreams trying to cover their little crushes on him. He is the world's most eligible bachelor." he teased. Horo blushed.

"I do not have a crush on him! I just admire him!" he defended.

"Riiiiiight..." Zak said sarcastically before turning from the bathroom doorway.

"Alright, boys! Assemble!" he yelled, and the uniformed SHAMAN candidates quickly made a straight line, Horo in front.

"When you see the general, you are to behave like the men you are. I want not one hair to move out of place, is that clear? You will keep your eyes forward, and speak only when spoken to. You will salute and remain that way until told otherwise and you will remain where you are until dismissed. Understood?" he asked, his glowing green eyes flew over them.

"Sir, yes sir!" they answered in unison.

"Very good. Move out!" he called, and they followed in synch with him to the grounds, where they assembled in an orderly fashion at the front row amongst hundreds of other hopefuls and commanders. Zak went to his place at the front, eyeing the group. Horo felt his heart soaring as he knew the general would be coming out soon.

"Salute!" Came the cry from the front and he did so quickly, holding his pose and searching for the general. Then he saw him, in all his glory. The general walked out slowly, taking his time and glaring harshly and critically at them with sharp, glowing golden eyes until he came to the middle of the row. He turned to face them, his face set as his eyes swept over them.

His violet hair was up in a single point atop his head, making him look shark-like and menacing. He was dressed in loose black clothing and a long black cape. He wore only two silver shoulder plates for armor and he held his typical kwan dao firmly close. At his waist hung a holster holding a long one-handed sawed-off shotgun and on the other side his legendary Hou Rai Ken, which only he could handle properly.

Horo, however, noticed a few other hidden weapons. The general was a walking armory, or so it appeared to him. He noted the knives hidden in his boots, the throwing stars hidden at his sides, and the blades hidden up his sleeves in secret holders.

"At ease." the young Tao said softly, and all hands went down and behind their backs. The general's face was emotionless as he glanced over them.

"You all are here because you show extreme talent amongst your city and town hopefuls. Well, I have news for you. Here you are at the opposite end. You are at the bottom rung of the ladder, and it takes a shit load of skill and effort to get past that rung. Look around you. These are the men you are competing against. Understand that you aren't here to make friends. You are here to be the best. To be the best you have to stomp on others. Only a selected few of you are going to make it to the next step of the ladder. Those who fail are going home. Do you know who you are?" he said harshly. He stepped forward, looking straight at Horo.

"Do you know who you are?" he repeated. Horo gulped.

"Sir, yes sir!" he answered. The First-Class SHAMAN looked amused, and a smirk appeared on his face.

"What is your name, soldier?" he asked.

"Horokue Usui, sir!" the Ainu replied. Ren stepped back slightly.

"Look at me. What do you see?" he asked, sending him a look that unnerved him slightly.

"Kwan dao, sawed-off shotgun, Hou Rai Ken, ten throwing stars, two daggers, two half-blades, two pocket knives, sir!" he answered. Ren raised a brow.

"Is that all?" he asked. Horo looked harder, concentrating, wondering what he missed.

"Y-Yes sir!" he stuttered slightly. Ren nodded slightly to himself, and motioned Zak to him. They whispered amongst each other a moment and Zak nodded. Ren turned back to the soldiers.

"Congratulations to those that know who they are. Those who don't, I suggest you leave now. We have no place for doubt. That is all." he said and exited. Zak stepped forward again.

"Alright, men! Now you and your respective teams will be headed to the first training part of your day, whatever that may be!" he called. They all saluted and turned to leave in an orderly fashion with their own commanders.

"My group, follow me. Our first order of business is running fifty laps around the mile-track. I'll be counting, so don't try to pull a fast one. I expect everyone will do their very best, seeing as General Ren himself will be moving about, watching at random intervals. He has the power to get rid of you or pass you. Now hop to it!" he informed them as they reached the track. The other dragged along at first, groaning, but Horo was determined not to lose heart. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. He told himself as he raced into the laps. He was nearing the end of his laps when he saw the general show up to the side, watching and every now and then whispering with Zak. His heart gave a leap and he pushed himself harder, running even faster and finishing quickly. He jogged up to Zak and Ren and continued to jog in place.

"Sir, I have completed the task, sir!" he reported military-fashion, all the while staring at the general.

"Alright, then, take a rest over there." Zak said, pointing to some shade, but Ren cut in.

"Do it again." he ordered. Zak's head snapped over the younger boy who out-ranked him.

"Nani?" he asked with a shocked look.

"I said. Do. It. Again. Fifty laps. Non-stop. Now." he said slowly between clenched teeth.

"Sir, yes, sir!" Horo saluted and ran off to the track again, watching as Zak threw a fit at his idol. The others finished half an hour later while Horo was on his second 40th lap. He continued to run, ignoring the sun pounding his back, the sweat slipping down his skin, the ache in his legs and stomach. He kept his eyes forward and pace steady. Finally he finished and, still jogging in place, joined the colonel and general again.

"Sir, I have completed the task, sir! Anything else, sir?" he asked, still happily grinning. Ren's face grew stone cold.

"Do it again." he said, growing to hate the perky Ainu boy. Zak zipped to face him.

"Ren, are you trying to kill a member of my team?" he asked harshly, not noticing that Horo had said another bouncy sir, yes, sir and bounded off. Ren glared at him.

"You will address me as sir, is that clear?" he hissed.

"Sir, yes, sir." Zak glowered as he sat back again, watching the boy from his team run the laps a third time, still happily humming some nonsense tune. Horo ran up again after finishing, still jogging in place, and a little more out of breath as he saluted.

"Sir, I have completed your task, sir! Anything else, sir?" he asked again, still upbeat. Ren growled slightly.

"Zak, take your men to the obstacle course. Have them all run it ten times. Have him run it fifty." he snapped. Zak nodded wearily and they moved to the course. Horo ran right in before the others again, racing past booby-traps, blades, arrows, up things, down things, through things, never halting. He went through with ease and finished his fifty times quickly. Ren was angry.

"Soldier!" he yelled, and Horo's full attention was on him.

"You will run through that course until your feet feel like they are falling off!" he fumed. Horo replied his usual answer and happily went through it over and over again, but Zak and Ren both saw he was getting slower and closer to the blades that swung to hit him. However, he refused to quit. He just kept on going through and going through happily. Both First-Class SHAMANS knew he wouldn't be able to go fast enough to outrun the blades much longer. However, when he couldn't go fast enough, he made up for it by dodging agilely through. Ren frowned, he hated persistence and how happy the kid seemed.

"Zak, take the rest of your team to their duties. I will deal with this one." he ordered, leaving no room for argument. The others left and Ren called Horokue over. He waited expectantly.

"Go back to the track and keep running. I'll tell you when to quit." he said angrily, watching the sun already sinking beneath the horizon.

"Sir, yes, sir!" the Ainu boy replied and ran off, drenched in his own sweat, not noticing as the general turned with a sigh to go to his meetings.

SCENE CHANGE

Ren growled. It was nearly dawn and he was still stuck in a meeting. The thought of the little soldier still running was ticking away in his head, annoying him to no end.

"Something on your mind, Ren?" the president of Patch Inc. asked with a raised brow.

"Just some dumbass SHAMAN candidate out at the track, most likely still running, waiting for my signal to stop, hanging on my every damn order like the word of god, admiration shining in his eyes, complete trust that I will be there to dismiss him and I am here. That kid has the most fucking determination I've ever seen. He bugs me." he growled again, hating the little Ainu even more.

"We can't leave until this problem is solved, so get on with it. Forget the stupid kid." the head of weapons development told him. He nodded slightly, but the sweaty, tired, undyingly devotedness of the younger boy kept creeping back into his thoughts.

It was five when he finally got out and to the track. He watched disbelievingly as a lone figure was hobbling weakly on. The person came closer and he saw the bluenette still struggling to continue, despite the overworking his body had taken.

'All for me.' Ren thought.

"You are dismissed." he said softly, and the young man grinned painfully at him.

"T-Thank you, sir!" he coughed out and weakly saluted him. He then stumbled off to his team cabin. Ren followed in the shadows, watching the poor boy limp in and fall in the doorway. Zak rushed to his comrade and dragged him outside again to the fresh air, laying him flat out to open his breathing passages.

"Horokeu? Horokeu, answer me!" he yelled, slapping the younger across the cheek. The Ainu flinched and slowly opened his eyes, choking as he tried to respond.

"Z-Zak... I d-did it..." he managed to say. Ren was surprised; the kid still didn't complain. Zak shushed him.

"Don't speak. I'll get you to the infirmary." he said softly, gently lifting the exhausted form and rushing off to the medical area. Ren followed, sneaking along silently and watching from the darkness as Zak had to leave the young man in the care of the nurses to attend to his team. The nurses finished up working on his bruised feet and lightly bleeding heels and left him to rest.

Ren entered through the privacy curtain and sat watching him breath, feeling rather guilty. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. A few hours later he was still sitting there watching, lost deep in his thoughts.

"S-Sir?" Horo's croaky voice snapped his attention upwards.

"Why didn't you fucking go home when I left?" he asked suddenly.

"Because, sir. You said to keep running until you said to stop." Horokue answered innocently, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. He really reminded Ren of a naïve little child.

"I expect I'll be seeing you later, then, Usui." he stated and left.

He headed off towards the gym at a brisk pace, only to be halted by an angry brunette.

"Ren Tao, what the HELL are you trying to pull?" Zak yelled. Ren's eyes hardened.

"Nothing." he muttered.

"Don't give me that SHIT! He isn't like the others, Ren! You can't just treat him like your little fuck puppet! He isn't some sex toy that you can use and then shoot down dead when he bores you!" the colonel shouted angrily. "He's different. He's special. So just stay away from him!" he added. Ren raised a brow.

"I didn't do anything. I don't plan to." he stated.

"Didn't do anything? You nearly KILLED him! You nearly killed my Horokeu, you bastard!" Zak grabbed Ren's shoulders and shook him hard.

"YOUR Horokeu?" Ren asked, unaffected.

"Just...don't mess with him..." Zak muttered, defeated. Ren continued on his way to the gym, leaving the colonel to his own devices. Upon entering the gym, Ren was barraged with stares. A man came up to him.

"Ren..." the man stated.

"What?" he asked angrily.

"Ren, you shouldn't be skipping your training time. You require this intense work to keep your body prepared for the next month's furyoku infusion." the man told him.

"Why the fuck would you care, En?" Ren rolled his eyes.

"You're a valuable source of information. The more furyoku we put in, the more information we get out of you. Without that information, we will never understand furyoku. I expect you won't be missing anymore training." En said, and it was not a question. Without another word he left the building, leaving Ren to his long and boring workout. Ren sighed. This was the worst part of his every-day routine, because at least half of the SHAMANs were there for the sole purpose of staring at him.

SCENE CHANGE

Horo blinked his eyes open again, finding Zak staring at him. "You alright?" he asked worriedly. Horo slowly nodded, a grin appearing on his face.

"I'm fine. Do you think I made a good impression?" he asked anxiously. Zak rolled his eyes.

"Why can't you get him out of your head? I'm the one who tests you, not him. All he really does is show up and look good." He pouted. Horo frowned.

"He's not a bad guy, Zak." He stated.

"You don't know him like I do…Anyway, I got to go. I'll check in with you tomorrow to see how you are." Zak stood quickly and left.

Outside the window, coal black eyes watched as the bluenette drifted off to sleep. "Impressive…"