A spring morning like any other, it was calm and soothing. Gentle winds let the trees play. Slightly chilled air forced warmer cloths. It was a normal day in Atlantis. Everything had just begun. The possibilities were endless. That is what she hoped for anyway.
The South Gate Headquarters stood before her, as tall and majestic as always. It had the classical design the military maintained in all aspects of their presence. Behind the traditional appearance held modernisms for the comfort of the soldiers. Everything needed to protect Atlantis from the outside world. It was the wall of Atlantis and its shield and protector. Assignment to the border patrol was a duty nearly all took, unless circumstances allowed them to be exempt.
Border duty was an honor. It was the greatest pride a soldier should have. They were on the frontlines of protecting the citizens from the dangers of the world beyond the barrier. It was a noble cause everyone supported and stood behind. It was something no one could doubt or see fault in taking. The distinguished honor was proof of loyalty, duty and devotion to one's country and King. Any achievements earned in the line of duty were highly regarded accolades. They were proof of one's ability.
It was those reasons she stood at the stone path into the South Gate. She needed that proof before she returned. 'I'll be back, father. I'll show them my worth!' The young Atlantean girl, dressed in a white military uniform, took her first step into the compound.
She had a small smile on her face. Excitement triggered each of her steps. All of the stories she heard about the Gates created a fantastical image in her mind. 'It'll be different from the Academy. These are men and women serving their country. All of the prejudice and immaturity won't be here. Everyone here has to work together to keep Atlantis safe!' Her past was behind her. She did not have to worry about her appearance or status.
Everything would work out.
Chapter 198 – Delusional Fantasies
"Who are you?" asked a female senior officer.
"Yeah, who are you?" interjected Yuki, cutting off the story. Time jumped back to the present, with everyone gathered closely by Ayumi with heightened curiosity. The normally stone-walled Ayumi, who's past was more of a mystery than Tamamo-no-Mae, was actually revealing her secrets. Yet, her story was too strange to believe, by Yuki's judgment.
Appearing a little put off by Yuki's interruption, Ayumi tried to push through. "I said, I'm the new—"
"Are you really expecting us to believe this?" Yuki looked around at the others to try to gain some support. "Right? Guys?"
Haruo remained silent, not a surprising course. He would be of no help. However, Saki looked uncertainly, possibly skeptical. Yuki leaped on it, regardless of the truth. He placed himself almost uncomfortably close to Saki to force something out of her. "W-Well, it is a little…out of character?"
"See, I'm right!" Yuki turned back to Ayumi, emphasizing his point with his clinched fist. "Who's going to be believe this sweet little girl is the cold, merciless Ayumi we all know!" He presented an image pulled from her introduction of the little girl, she claimed to use to have been.
Redness surfaced in Ayumi's cheeks. She ripped the paper from Yuki's hand and crumpled it up, before chucking it off behind her to disappear far into the distance. "It is embarrassing for me as well, but what I'm telling you is the truth!" Ayumi stretched out from her seated position to confront Yuki directly. Her eyes said she was serious, but her face still blushed deeply.
A moment of silence carried out between the two, staring intently. Yuki lost the fight and back away, looking a little away. "You can't start going Tsundere on me now! You're tsuntsun!"
"…Yuki…" bemoaned Saki, before she whacked him in the back of the head.
"Hey! You don't even know what I'm talking about!"
"It's not like I hit you because I knew what it means."
"Right," nodded Yuki. He slowly turned back to Ayumi planning to resume his debate, but stopped. "Wait…" Yuki looked back at Saki, who did not meet his gaze. His eyes widened in realization.
Clearing her throat, Ayumi interrupted, "Can I continue?" Saki had Yuki distracted enough that Ayumi accepted his silence as a forfeit of his platform.
The eleven-year-old child stood before a towering woman. (Hey!) She clearly saw the senior officer badge attached to her uniform. It was hardly the first time she saw someone of such station, but the woman held fierce look. The look killed everything in the girl in that instant. She hardened her features. She was a soldier. Certain manners and discipline was expected of soldiers. The girl had to obey how the system worked. "I'm the new graduate from the academy. I've been assign to the South Gate."
"Right, I heard about you from the Captain." The woman looked the girl up and down, what little of her there was to examine. The child still had time to grow and be carefree, yet she was already a soldier. Life of those like her was just the same as those older. They received the same treatment, ignoring anything about maturity. It remained unusual to send a child out to the border, even if they were accepted as a soldier. Such duties waited until they finished growing. "Can't believe they're sending us children now."
The child recognized the stare well enough. She experienced it repeatedly in the Academy. The reason was numerous, but the stare was always the same. "I'll pull my own weight, ma'am!" Despite her stature and age, she held the same trained look from any soldier.
"You better. The reports claim you were at the top of your class, even among older cadets. Don't let Academy life make you think you know what you're doing out here. The demands of the patrol are nothing like what they trained for you. Just because you were good in practice doesn't mean you're ready for this. You have to prove your usefulness out here."
"I will, ma'am!" She saluted the woman, never breaking from her determination.
The senior officer stared down at the girl in silence. Her eyes read for any flicker or motion. She wanted a read on the child. "You act confident, but we'll see how long that lasts. I don't know what Command is thinking putting an eleven year old in charge of a squad, even with your marks. I'll be watching you, Second Lieutenant Eudokia."
"I understand! I'll meet your expectations, Lieutenant Commander Athene!"
One of Athene's assistants appeared from behind the woman. The young man stepped forward to replace his superior. While Athene fell into the shadows, eventually departing, her assistant presented Eudokia with her lodging assignment. "Second Lieutenant Eudokia, you have been assigned to Barracks M. You will find your squad, the South 241st Squad, in the same barracks."
Eudokia listened in silence to the man citing her orders. Her eyes read into his expression, while her ears pulled apart the variance in his tone. 'The same eyes, but there's fear as the source…and a little jealousy.' She saw his black uniform only carried a badge marked as Sergeant. He was a regular soldier, forced to start at the bottom and over a decade older than her.
Life was not fair. Fate was not equal.
The barracks were easy to find for Eudokia. In the course of her walk, she passed many soldiers along the way. None of them knew her, but it did not stop them from looking as she passed. They all had the same reaction, bewilderment. 'Barracks M,' she noted to herself, when she reached the building. It had the same well-maintained appearance as every other building. It looked like it could stand for another millennia without change.
She pushed open the door, needing to put all of her weight into the effort. The door was designed to be opened by an adult, one with strength, something she lacked. It did not stop her. It creaked with her entrance. Light bled into the floor surrounding her shadow. 'This is where I'll find my squad…' Eudokia stood in the threshold searching out for signs hinting to her squad.
Her appearance stirred the soldiers resting. They all called their attention to her the moment they realized a child was in their barracks. Those still uninterested were tapped or nudged to get their attention.
"Someone let their kid into HQ?"
"Idiot, that's a MP."
"Woah, you're right. She's got their white uniform."
"Sure it's not some guy's kid dressing up?"
"Like she could fit their uniform."
"I've never seen one so young before."
"Don't they usually stay in the capital at that age?"
"What's she doing out here?"
They were only whispers, but Eudokia heard them well enough. She grew accustomed to such voices. However, she was lost. 'He purposely didn't guide me,' she realized. Her eyes scanned the area trying to sort out any identification, but none of the squads had any markings. 'Shouldn't they mark where each squad is?'
Resorting to the only option, Eudokia stopped in front of one of the soldiers. "I'm looking for the 241st Squad." She gathered several blank stares and empty looks. It took a little while for a soldier to lift an arm and point in the direction. "Thank you." Eudokia marched off with a new direction.
"What was that about?"
"Is she getting assigned to the 241st?"
"They did have their MP transferred back to the capital."
"If feel bad for them. Getting a helpless child as their MP."
Ignoring the comments, the five cots assigned for the 241st Squad revealed themselves. She stopped in front of the middle of the cots. In silence, Eudokia stretched her eyes over the four members of the squad. They lazily lounged in their spaces. None of them seemed very interested in her presence. 'These are soldiers? They don't look anything like Atlantean soldiers. They just look…bored…'
It might have been that they could not deploy until they received a MP. So they were forced to do nothing while waiting. It might have been the way they handled their off time. Eudokia did not know the reasons, she would understand in time. "This is the 241st?" She received no recognition from any of the four soldiers. "I ask—"
One of the men shifted in the cot making it groan under his weight. He slowly made effort to get out of his bed and worked over to the short Eudokia. Even at a slightly above average height, the man in the black uniform towered over her. "Who's asking, kid?" His tone ignored any respect due between them. In his eyes, he saw only a child, one that bothered him.
Eudokia narrowed her eyes reading the man for a moment before responding. She never flinched despite his efforts to appear intimidating. "I'm Second Lieutenant Eudokia, Lieutenant Sergeant," Eudokia declared with intent to curb some of his insubordination.
The Lieutenant Sergeant did not take her attempt at throwing around her rank well. A wrinkle appeared around his nose. "I earned my rank, Second Lieutenant. I don't appreciate our new White ignoring who's actually in command here."
Unaffected, Eudokia continued, "I'm glad you appreciate the chain of command. I'll expect you to obey my commands."
The man took a step back, a little surprised by the child unwillingness to back down and bold declaration. He caught himself in a fit of laughter, which spread around to the other three soldiers. Nearly a minute passed before they recovered themselves. "You're funny, kid. Like I said before, you might out rank me, but I'm the one in command. I'm the Squad Leader, you follow my orders."
"You'll find that you're working on outdated information, Lieutenant Sergeant." Eudokia retrieved her transfer papers along with her new command papers. She presented them out in front, purposely keeping them low. "I'm the new Squad Leader of South 241st Squad effective today."
The man leaned down suddenly no longer feeling secure in his position. Her declaration also silenced the other three and even garnered the attention of the rest of the barracks. It had everyone taken back. "Can't be…" He stared at the papers, almost expecting them to be hand drawn in with finger paints, but they were official. Even the General's stamp sat at the bottom.
Eudokia stared up at the man. "I expect you to follow my every command, Lieutenant Sergeant."
To be continued…