AN: This is my very first original story and I must say that as cringey, cliché and slow as it may be, I view it as my own child. I've poured literal years of my life into it and am very proud of it, despite its flaws. I hope that even if you dislike it, you can at least appreciate the care I've put into my work and will give it a chance. And if you have anything to add, whether it be to the plot, characters, setting or simple constructive criticism, it is always welcome!

(By the way, I've got this full story completed with two sequels and three prequels also already written. I'm just posting chapters in spurts as I polish them up. I will update chapter count, archive warnings, and tags as I come to them.)

Ever since the ruthless aliens known as Noctifers first landed their ship on Denbar's eastern border, the once proud-country had been up to its neck in battle. The country was now low in numbers, supplies, bodies, and victories. But despite this fact, the country was not low in spirit. On the contrary, every Denbarian was just as determined to win the war now as they had been 13 years ago when the alien ship first landed. Part of this vigor came from the fact that the Noctifers were not a new enemy. 200 years ago, another war between humans and Noctifer had occurred and, back then, the humans had emerged victorious. They wanted to keep the winning streak going. In fact, ads calling for new recruits for the army were still going strong. There were fewer people around now, but fresh blood did still come and it always came willingly, no matter how small the numbers. People came from all over Denbar, from every town, city, or state. One of the most surprising of these new recruits was a girl from the state called Labelle. Her choice to join the army was surprising for several reasons.

First and foremost was her location of origin. Labelle was Denbar's center state. Even though every Denbarian state was, by law, relatively equal in terms of wealth, resource, and quality of life, Labelle was always treated a cut above the rest. This was because it housed the government, Archon. Archon's main HQ was in the heart of Labelle so it made sense that Labelle would be slightly more protected than any other state. This new recruit, being from Labelle, had a pretty privileged, easy, luxurious, loving life. It came as a surprise to many that she would give up such an easy and wonderful life for the trials and tribulations of the army. It was the first thing that made her stand out.

The second thing was her stature and demeanor. Both were small. Physically, she was tiny and unintimidating, far too cute and clean to be scary. And personality wise, she was known for being very kind, playful and open. It wasn't exactly the aura one expected from a soldier who spent day after day fighting off alien invaders. But that was what made her choice to join the army all the more impressive. Despite her tiny size and quiet, polite, obedient nature, she could be a powerhouse when she wanted to be. It didn't matter that she was at least half a head below everyone else, what she lacked in size, she made up for in raw desire and determination.

"What's your name, missy?!" the recruiter barked at the girl, voice loud from years of yelling at soldiers on the frontline.

"Iris Long," the girl replied, voice comically calm and soft when compared to the recruiter's bellow.

"Have you ever trained with the army before?!" he demanded, still taken aback that such a tiny and polished kid would be wanting to join the army.

"No sir," the tiny brunette promised sincerely. It was clear the giant recruiter didn't believe her, though, and he even made a point of bending down to look her in the eyes, but when all he received was an eerily calm and unruffled stare in return, he huffed in defeat. He stood again, returning to his original height of one and a half heads taller than Iris, then moved to the recruit to her left. That was when the recruit on her right began to talk.

"I swear I'm going to go deaf before we're done," she whispered and Iris chuckled.

"I'll bet he gets paid by the decibel," she said and the other girl laughed back. Her name was Clover Eves and she was Iris' best friend.

Iris and Clover had met when they were both five years old. Clover and her father, Rusty, had just moved into Labelle from some other Denbar state further south. This, of course, meant that Clover was the shy, frightened, and lonely new kid, but from the moment peppy little Iris invited Clover over to play, the pair had been best friends. Even now, 13 years later, the two were still nigh inseparable and some even thought they were sisters, though they looked nothing alike. Clover was relatively lanky and very pale. She also had orange hair and blue eyes. Iris, meanwhile, was tiny and compact and her skin was a tannish color, a very light shade of brown. She had curly brown hair and purple eyes. Yes. Purple eyes.

The third thing that made Iris so special when compared to other recruits was her eyes. Or to be more specific, their strange color. Purple. As far as Iris knew, she had been born like that, but she was just as confused as everyone else as to how such a thing was possible. Nobody knew. Neither her parents, nor any doctor, nor the people who ran the orphanage from which Iris had been adopted from knew why Iris' eyes were purple. But nobody ever gave Iris much grief for it. Though her eyes were a source of interest and speculation from strangers, it didn't take long for anyone to get accustomed to them and Iris had never suffered any bullying for this. And Iris really did like her eyes, she was just confused as to how it was possible. There were no records of birthparents and her genes were unreadable. She supposed it would just have to remain a mystery… But the one thing Iris could've lived without was The Question. It was a short, simple and usually innocent one but everyone asked it, including her parents, Clover, Clover's family, and everyone else Iris ever met. The recruiter even had asked when he first saw Iris' iris irises.

"WHY ARE YOUR EYES PURPLE?!" the recruiter had screamed at her the moment his gray eyes met her bright purple ones when the physical tests began. His voice was even louder due to the shock of seeing such oddly colored eyes.

"I was born this way," Iris had replied calmly, but a note of anger lay just beneath the surface. She knew it was an innocent question and nobody ever pushed her or gave her a hard time about it, but 18 years of answering the same question every time she met someone did get tiring…

"FASTER!" the recruiter thundered and Iris and Clover turned to see him yelling at the boy who had been on Iris' left. If the recruiter had been surprised by Iris and her strange, purple eyes before, he was over it by now and he was back yelling at a poor boy who couldn't run fast enough to please him. Iris felt sympathetic for the boy's plight, but it was kind of funny to see him do an odd little step-hop in reply to the shout.

"I think you were right about the decibels," Clover whispered to Iris again and Iris laughed.

But in time, that part of the army recruitment test ended and it was onto the next section, though that section wasn't much better.

"Awww! The writing part! I totally forgot!" Clover groaned. "I thought we finished this type of exam when we graduated!"

"Calm down, Clover, I heard that it was nothing like a school exam. Instead, it sounds more like a questionnaire than a test," Iris tried to explain.

"I hope you're right," her orange-haired best friend replied miserably. It was just that neither Iris nor Clover were valedictorians and both of them had hated every test their school ever made them take. The thought of facing another one here wasn't fun, but it had to be done, so… The group all sat reluctantly at a desk and, when instructed, started the writing part of the ART.

Soon enough, however, it was over, and Iris proved to be right. Although there was some memory-based questions, most were more about what kind of learner one was. It asked how and why someone learned and remembered as opposed to what they learned or remembered. In addition, at the end, all the questions became scenario based like, "If you saw this happen, what would you do and why?". Those questions didn't technically have an answer. So all in all, for a written test, that particular exam wasn't a problem at all.

"Thank Denbar!" Clover sighed. "And now the ART is over and we are free!" she added. The other recruits who heard her realized that she was right and they all began to cheer too. It had been a long, grueling day of physical, mental, emotional and healthful testing. A well-deserved rest and maybe some dinner was totally in order. Now they just had to wait one week to get the test results.