I do not own Valkyria Chronicles. If I did, Selvaria would not have died. At least, not in such a miserable way. Also, I've been given permission by the author to write this early, using his OC. I will only say this: Oxford belongs to BlindFury the Ultimate, and is being used with permission.


DRAKE

As I stepped in through the flaps of the tent, there was an immediate change in the atmosphere. Before I'd entered, the soldiers were bustling about, going about their business, a relaxed feeling overtaking my tenseness. Now, a feeling of regal power had come over me, sending chills down my spine, as well as a ripple of fear. I felt myself tense as Leo's hand clapped down on my shoulder, then relaxed slightly as I took in the interior of the tent. An ornately carved mahogany table dominated the center of the tent, the edges catching the dim light like a knife blade when held up to the sun. Battle plans and a map had been strewn across it like someone were in a hurry, and a huge map had been spread across the back wall, the stained parchment clashing with the dark red fabric and tarps that made up the tent. Lanterns either hung from the ceiling or stood upright on the ground and table, illuminating what would have been the dim tent of General Selvaria Bles.

"So let me get this straight," I ran my hand along the edge of the table, "they're willing to send these freakishly expensive tables out to the battlefield so the General has something to push paper around on, but they're too cheap to supply us foot soldiers with proper armour? Not even stronger helmets? What do they think we are, expendable tools that come on a conveyer belt?"

"You might want to watch what you say," Leo stated, shaking his head slightly, "I don't know about you, but I don't want to push it. Besides, the General doesn't just 'push paper.' You're lucky she isn't here, otherwise you wouldn't be standing... oh."

"What?" I glanced at him, and he pointed to the corner of the tent. I followed his gaze, and found myself staring at a literal giant of a man leaning against the wall of the tent, his arms crossed and his dark, intense gaze set directly on me. He towered at a height of at least seven feet, and his heavily muscled body made it clear that he was no lighter than three hundred fifty pounds. Scars crisscrossed across where his lancer uniform didn't cover his body, and a mustache ran along the top of his lip before combining with the thick beard that hung from his face all along his jawline. His long hair had been tied back behind his head, and a helmet lay on the ground at his feet, but this was no Imperial piece of trash; that was genuine Fhiraldian metal work, made from pure steel, something many people would kill just to get their hands on.

He continued to stare at me as we sized each other up, with me groping through my mind for his name. I'd heard of this guy before, but I couldn't quite place it. He gave a smirk, a powerful accent making itself known in his voice, "so this is the boy that took a strike from the General. I can't say I think much of you, just from looking at you."

I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and my jaw involuntarily set in a sudden blaze of anger in my gut. I gave my own smirk as I finally remembered his name, "and you're Oxford, the guy from Fhirald. You have quite a name for yourself back in Gallia. Most returning tourists from your country call you the 'Beast of Theoks.' They say your first real arena fight was against the previous champion of Theoks, and you beat him down without a scratch. You've supposedly gone unmatched, unbeaten throughout your whole career. But that makes me wonder, is that a title you really deserve? Or are all your fights in the arena staged?"

His smirk wavered slightly, his grip on his arms tightening, "oh, so you have a tongue, do you?" he uncrossed his arms as he took a step forwards, "you might want to be more careful about who you challenge and insult, boy. Some are not as forgiving as I am."

"Drake," Leo's hand clapped down on my shoulder, "how about you give it a rest before he tears your arms off? Or do you have a death wish?" Leo's shaky voice rang through the tent, his advice promptly ignored in a silent staring contest between me and the giant.

"Sounds like I just hit a nerve," I felt my smirk widen, "was that a nerve? Oh, that was a nerve."

"I don't take kindly to being mocked, boy," the giant flexed his fingers slightly, his voice laced with venom, "you would do well to remember that."

"You don't, huh? Well, I'll keep that in mind for when you quit mocking me," I felt my hand trail to my handgun, "that's how it works with me, you got it? You give me my space, I'll give you yours."

His smirk returned, his eyes on the hand that inched ever closer to my gun, "so you think you can threaten me, boy? With that toy, no less?" he let out a hearty laugh, leaving it echoing in my ears as he spoke again, "tell me, do you think you can get that gun out of its holster, take aim, and pull the trigger before I snap your neck? Have you even killed a man before?" he flexed his fingers again, "a weapon in the hand of a murderer is a danger. A weapon in the hand of a child, however, is nothing to worry over."

I paused for a moment, then drew my gun, Leo's protests totally drowned out by the constant beat of anger that rang in my ears, "the difference between me and a kid," I hissed, removing the safety from the gun, "is that I can pull this trigger."

Oxford raised an eyebrow, "oh, can you now?" he loomed over me, shadows covering his face, "shall we put that to the test?"

"I've pulled it before, I'll do it again. You want to try me on that?" I stared up at the giant, my eye giving a slight twitch "don't come crying to me me when you've got a bullet in your skull."

The next series of events were little more than a flash. The next thing I knew, Oxford was behind me, holding my left arm in a death grip as he pulled it across my throat and pressed it against the side of my neck, followed up by his own left arm as he slipped it under mine and fastened it against the other side of my neck - a submission hold, I realized as I reacted without thought, lining the barrel of the gun up directly between his eyes. I felt my pulse increase as I instinctively tightened my grip on the trigger, and he let out a chuckle, "if you're going to kill me, then now's your chance," I craned my neck as far as I could to get a better look at him, and he stared at me, his eyes like ice, "go on. Pull the trigger."

I felt my eyes narrow, "I could say the same to you. If this is some kind of test," I cocked the gun, "I'll be more than happy to oblige you."

There was a short silence before Oxford let out another chuckle that erupted into another set of hearty laughter, his grip on me disappearing, his hand moving from my arm and my neck to clap me hard on the back, "I can see why both Maximillian and the General took an interest in you! You have guts, if nothing else."

I blinked, then let my finger hover over the safety, ready to either re-engage it or pull the trigger, "so this really was some kind of test."

"Yes. A test. Nothing more," his grin lessened to a smirk, "Drake, was it?" I nodded, and he continued "I can already tell, you and I are either going to get along just fine..."

"Or be at each other's throats," I sighed, re-engaging the safety before glancing at Leo. The sniper stood in the corner, as though trying not to be noticed by the giant before us.

Oxford nodded, then allowed his gaze to turn cold as he stared at Leo, his arms crossed, "a sniper... Leo Marksworth, correct?"

Leo slowly turned, giving a slight nod. Oxford merely spat at my friend, and another voice echoed in my ears before I could react.

"Is there a problem?"

I glanced to my left to see Selvaria emerge from behind the tarp wall that held up the map, followed by a seemingly timid young man who almost cowered behind her, his helmet rattling slightly as I took him in. An engineer, from his uniform.

Oxford and Leo brought their hands up in salute, the giant speaking out "no, General. Just sorting some things out. Where did you find him, anyways?" he gestured towards me, "he has guts, if nothing else. He'll make a good soldier, perhaps even a decent warrior.'

"That doesn't matter right now, Oxford," her eyes narrowed as she focused on me, then my hand, then back to me, her eyes set in a glare and her voice laced with venom as she spoke out again, "and you will put that away. I will not tolerate any more of your games. Am I understood?"

I glanced down at the gun in my hand, then shrugged, holstering it, "yeah, yeah, loud and clear. I get it. Look, can we just cut the crap and get down to why the hell we're all here?"

She continued to glare at me for a few seconds before returning her attention to the others, "the reason I've called you all here is simple. We're launching our assault on Ghirlandio tonight. As you know, the engineer I had assigned to my squad previously was incapacitated, so I had to have a replacement assigned. That, plus the fact that a certain Gallian has recently joined the regiment," I felt my eye twitch as she gave me a sideways glance, "is why this assault has been put off for so long."

I stepped forwards, my mouth open to respond, but Leo put out a hand to stop me. I glanced at him, and he mouthed silently "not worth it. Not now."

"As such, I've assigned all of you to my personal squad. Leo," she turned to the sniper, "you will provide support fire from above whenever possible. Make sure they know a sniper is around. They won't be in such a hurry to open fire if they know someone can pick them off if they try. If there are any explosives that can open a path for us such as ragnite canisters or crates of grenades or ammunition, don't be afraid to use them."

"Yes Ma'am," Leo gave a salute, and Selvaria gave a satisfied nod before turning to Ox.

"Oxford, you will accompany me and the engineer as a lancer on the front lines. What you do from there is up to you."

"And I'm here... why?" I scratched absentmindedly at my forehead as Selvaria turned back to me, her jaw set in annoyance.

"Ah, you. I'd almost forgotten about you," I felt my own jaw instinctively set as she spoke, my eyes narrowing as she tilted her head slightly before speaking again, "His Grace wants me to monitor where you are in terms of usefulness on the battlefield. As such, you will accompany me, the engineer, and Oxford on the front lines. Understood?"

"I got it. But," I started, giving a slight pause to make sure she was listening to me before continuing, "don't expect me to follow orders if I see a better way through than the one you're having us take. If I see a better way, I'm taking it, regardless of what your orders are. You got that, Selvaria?"

She gave me a long hard glare as she took a step forwards, then two, then a third until she was a mere foot away from me, towering over me with a glowering anger in her eyes, "while you are under the command of the Imperial army, you will recognize that I am a General, and will refer to me as such. And I'm not so certain that disobeying my orders is a risk you want to be taking, soldier."

"Damn straight it's a risk I'll take," I crossed my arms, "and my name isn't 'soldier,' General. It's Drake."

There was a short silence as I stood in a standoff with the cause to many of my current problems. She turned to the others, "engineer, Leo, Oxford... please try to not shoot this one by accident. The fact that he is Gallian will make no difference in the punishment that follows such an act."

I felt my eye twitch again, "when the time comes, I'm going to enjoy driving you insane far more than I should."

She merely glanced at me, then stated, "I want you all ready to go within the hour. Dismissed!"

Leo, the engineer, and Oxford all went into a salute as I sauntered towards the flap of the tent. As I stepped out, I felt a fist connect with the back of my head, sending me sprawling forwards as Leo's voice rang out, "what the HELL did you think you were doing!?"

"Does it matter?" I grumbled as I glared back at him, somehow retaining my balance and keeping myself from falling on my face.

"Hell, yes it matters!" he shouted, "the worse of an opinion the General has of you, the more likely you're going to be dead before this war is over!"

"And what makes you think I care about what the General thinks?" I crossed my arms.

He gaped at me, "did you even listen to a single word I just said?! How stupid are you?!"

"Clearly quite stupid," Oxford's voice echoed in my ears. I turned to him, and he had his helmet under his arm, glowering at me. His hands flexed as he continued, "I don't particularly care what went on between you and the General, but I will not abide by any insults to the person I most respect. Watch your step, boy, because one wrong step may be the last you make."

I snorted, "whatever. I don't really care what anyone here thinks. If you don't like my attitude, you can damn well deal with it, and that includes her!"

I pointed at the tent, and Oxford's eyes narrowed, "I look forwards to seeing how you fare on the battlefield."

"Same to you," I spat, then turned on my heel, and walked off to gather my supplies. I had a feeling it was going to be a LONG night...