Chapter 18:

Chapter 18 - Two Lieutenants

Of Heroes and Royals

Two.Bookmark here

Two lieutenants. Bookmark here

This was how many had been assigned to Operation Terra, which was currently unfolding - a mission to test the capabilities of the God of Earth, and slaughter much of the Resistance at the same time, with little care for the lives of the citizens caught in the crossfire.Bookmark here

That number also represented other potential threats the Resistance would have to deal with, that would stand in their way and make the already low chance of victory, even lower.Bookmark here

That's right - even as Terra pushed the Resistance to the brink of collapse, as all hope seemed lost, there were a few others that sought to carry out their own goals, ultimately making the situation even worse.Bookmark here

As for why there were so few, that was because a soldier ranked lieutenant or higher is no longer seen as "expendable" by the Stratus Imperial Army - and with the circumstances of the mission, it seemed likely that the more that were sent, the more would lose their lives.Bookmark here

The first lieutenant, who had begged the Doctor General to assign him to the mission after a certain loss in battle, was one that Alice, Ciela, Apollo and Naois had already crossed paths with.
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Lieutenant Capri Petridis.Bookmark here

As soon as the airships touched down on Fiorir, he'd had only one goal in mind. He cared not to lead any troops, he took no notice of Terra, and unlike his colleagues, he didn't raise his weapon at any of the fleeing townsfolk. No, he only wished for one thing - a rematch, with the kids who had beaten him so badly.Bookmark here

"They're here. I just know it," the man thought to himself the moment he stepped of the airship, his gaze darting around as he attempted to get his bearings. "I should check the Resistance base, first. What was it... some old pub? La Rivière?"Bookmark here

He'd done a lot of thinking, in the past few days. That was all he could do, of course - Apollo had beaten him so badly that he'd had to spend all his time resting and being healed, with the finest healthcare the Stratus Empire could offer. Bookmark here

Every moment since he met those children - from when he wafted cigarette smoke into their ugly-looking truck, to teasing the silver-haired girl with a revelation about the Wild Card, to painfully being headbutted into the ground - all of it played on loop in his mind repeatedly. And all he then wanted, seemingly, was another chance to fight them.Bookmark here

"Alice Bavaria... he was going on about how someday, that girl will be queen. And to pull off something like that... they'd need allies. They have to be part of the Resistance." It wasn't long after the battle before he'd come to that conclusion, but even now, there were things he felt uncertain about. Even as he hurried to the Resistance base, as he could bump into his foes at any moment, his mind was still racing. "You know, maybe I could believe it. I never thought I'd see that kind of power again... that curse."Bookmark here

The Wild Card. Every time he thought about it, countless painful memories filled his mind. Memories the man couldn't let go of, that had dictated his every move, until this day.Bookmark here

"Maybe I'll finally be freed of mine. Forgive me, Aurora... I guess I'm staking my life this time."Bookmark here

And so, he continued on, the sight of a crumbling pub and a certain brown-haired girl - a girl that, unbeknownst to him, one of his foes had taken a liking to - off in the distance.Bookmark here

Now, as for the other lieutenant, an overconfident green-haired woman who had gone around calling herself a made-up name - she would have a run-in with some of whom Capri was looking for, one which ended in bitter defeat.Bookmark here

Elsewhere in Fiorir, as Lieutenant Vidalia Zappa lay motionless on the ground, having been overwhelmed by Ciela and now unable to disregard the destruction that was taking place around her - that she had also been a part of - she could only think of one thing. One thing that made her feel both comfort and an uncomfortable shame as her mind started to drift toward unconsciousness, no doubt due to blood loss.Bookmark here

That thing was, of course, home.Bookmark here

For some reason, as the world seemed to be crumbling around her, as both her enemies and her fellow soldiers began to despair - terrified and overwhelmed by Terra's sheer power - the only thing she could think of was the place she had so confidently ran from years prior.Bookmark here

Of course, she knew the reason. It was the words of her aforementioned purple-haired opponent which had made her begin to doubt the path she had taken. Because no matter how vehemently she tried to deny it, a future with this much bloodshed couldn't be bright at all.Bookmark here

"Someone... to fight for, huh...?"Bookmark here

What felt like a lifetime ago, there was once a happy family that lived on a farm - one that supplied its meat and crops directly to the big cities of Lumière. Since the Stratus Empire's invasion of the kingdom, heavy limits had been placed on how high primary sector businesses could sell goods. No doubt this had a dual purpose - in order to help the Stratus headquartered companies thrive further after many of Lumière's essential stores were forced to close in favour of their Stratussian counterparts, all while oppressing the Lumerian people further.Bookmark here

Regardless, this meant that the family made little profit from their goods, and were unable to hire any help - which led to even the youngest child being made to work the farm from as soon as they could physically do so.Bookmark here

Which also meant that Vidalia Zappa had been exposed to some of the less than glamourous aspects of farm life for as long as she could remember.Bookmark here

Even still, back then, the family was happy. Vidalia and her three younger siblings - her two little brothers and one little sister - worked the fields each day, alongside their parents. Her parents who, of course, took the hardest work, and often stopped what they were doing to help their children if they struggled.
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And at the end of the day, Vidalia would sit atop one of the grassy hills and watch the sunset without a care in the world.Bookmark here

On the weekends, the children and their mother would have less work to do - and they'd often spend time playing together. Whether it was starting water fights with the hose, petting the livestock, or simply playing tag in the fields, it brought them all joy. It was a simple life, and for a long time, Vidalia felt content with that.Bookmark here

"We sure were like, really happy back then." Vidalia thought to herself, suddenly pulled back to her current harsh reality for a second, like she was waking up from a dream. "So lame... why does this all have to come back to me now...?"Bookmark here

That changed around the time she turned fourteen. The children's mother took ill, and couldn't work anymore. Suddenly, each child's workload increased, and the carefree weekends seemed to come by less. They remained optimistic, however - Vidalia included - and they were sure their mother would recover soon, that things would return to normal.Bookmark here

Drifting out of memories again, a tear rolled down Vidalia's cheek as she remembered how she felt at that time. "But they didn't."Bookmark here

Their mother didn't recover. And less than six months after her symptoms had first appeared, she succumbed to her illness. The family didn't have enough money to pay for more than basic medicine - and rest simply wasn't enough to cure years of overwork for a woman that had underlying health issues.Bookmark here

After that, the children's workload increased again, despite the fact that they were all heartbroken - the father fell into a deep depression, having lost the love of his life, and began to drink heavily, often unable to work.Bookmark here

Vidalia felt like her world had come crashing down. The other children were too young to fully grasp the situation, and she felt like she had no one to turn to. Because the woman who had once been her lifeline wasn't there anymore.Bookmark here

And it was around then that the seed of resentment, of hatred, began growing in her heart.Bookmark here

Over the next few years, things worsened - their father did start to work more often, but became more aggressive toward the children, including Vidalia, when they started to complain about the workload, or when they came down with sickness themselves.Bookmark here

And Vidalia came to hate the place she had once loved, to resent the father she had once adored, and wanted nothing more than to go far, far away from that wretched farm. It all began to repulse her - the animals, the dirty work, and even the beautiful sunset she had once enjoyed became soured as it became a painful reminder that every day was more of the same.Bookmark here

So, go far away she did. On her eighteenth birthday, once she had awakened her Signature Spell, she told her father she was leaving.Bookmark here

"I hate it! I hate it here! I can't take it anymore!" she declared. "I hate constantly having dirt in my nails, I hate how this place smells, I hate how tired I constantly feel from all of the work you make us do... and I... I hate you!!"Bookmark here

Her father didn't know what to say. She had expected him to yell, to threaten her, to do all of the things that she'd had to live with for years.Bookmark here

"You look... you look just like her," he muttered. In truth, it was the first time his daughter had looked him in the eye in years, rather than staring at the floor as he barked orders at her. Bookmark here

It was the first time he'd truly notice the young woman she had grown into, and the last.Bookmark here

"What the hell are you talking about?"Bookmark here

"I'm so... so sorry, Lia."Bookmark here

But it was too late. Hearing this, after all he had done, only served to further Vidalia's "hatred". And she left without another word, leaving her beloved siblings there alone.Bookmark here

The girl had only a simple plan - to make as much money as she could, and live the opposite kind of life she had lived on the farm. And after trying to make a living in the city of Ombra for a few months, she came to a bleak realisation.Bookmark here

"To succeed in this world, you have to serve Stratus."Bookmark here

She began to believe this was the only way to achieve a brighter future.Bookmark here

"So, because of my Spell, I started calling myself the Maiden of the Winds or whatever, and was eager to make a name for myself in the Stratus Imperial Army... just for the cash and the power," Vidalia recalled, drifting out of her memories for one final time. "And all of that stuff I said to him... was true... and after coming this far, I even managed to make lieutenant... and yet... all I can think about now is going back."Bookmark here

The woman began to sob weakly as the smiling faces of her siblings flooded her mind.Bookmark here

"I don't want to be here anymore..."Bookmark here

"I want to go see my siblings..."Bookmark here

"I don't want to disappoint Mom..."Bookmark here

Those are the final words she would mutter as she began to drift away, one final time. She wanted to run to the purple-haired woman who had beaten her, and tell her she was right. And just like back then, she wanted to run far, far away from here - this time back to the home she thought she'd never return to.Bookmark here

Vidalia didn't know if she'd wake up again, but she wanted to believe. She wanted to believe she could go back.Bookmark here

And she kept that wish in her heart as her consciousness faded, and even as the last thing she saw, through blurred vision, was the airship of one Doctor General Azazel coming to a stop in the sky directly above her.Bookmark here

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