Chapter 2:

Chapter Two: The Rose War

Beyond the Borders Volume 1

“The fall of man well forever come at the hand of man. I shall not protect you on that day but know that once your life is over, a new one shall begin anew.”Bookmark here

—The Tzira de Velmuous: Vol. OneBookmark here

As Melissa carried Aryia down the hallway she wondered just how old Melissa truly was. Neither Melissa nor Lylianna appeared to be the age they actually were. The truth was both of them were older then Aryia by only a year. If she is the same age as me that would be hard to believe, Aryia thought as she looked over to Melissa. Once the two of them reached the medical room Melissa helped her to one of the medical beds. The doctor — whose name tag read Dr. Suyuri — stood up from her desk with a slight worried look on her face.
“What’s wrong?”
Doctor Suyuri made her way towards the two girls.
“Not to worry, I am a doctor.”
“Wait, are you Melissa Rial?”
“Yeah, that is me.”
The fear in Doctor Suyuri’s face showed. She recalled the first time she dislocated her wrist. Without any numbing shots the pain of having it relocated was a nightmare. The woman quickly left the room trying not to relive the fear of that day as Melissa seemed confused as to why the doctor was leaving.
“Take off your shirt and let me see where that mean girl hit you,” Melissa said.
Aryia removed her shirt slowly as she noticed the bruise — now turning a darker shade of purple — was a bit bigger then it had been before. She winced slightly as Melissa’s fingers lightly traced over the bruise. Melissa grinned as Aryia whimpered every time she pressed down on it. After a few minutes passed of Melissa’s playful fun, she numbed up the area and bandaged it up.
“What did Major Veltress do to those girls? She moved way too fast.”
Melissa simply giggled at the question. She knew the truth behind it.
“Maybe one day she will tell you.”
With that answer Melissa walked over to the desk Doctor Suyuri had been sitting at and grabbed a pen and notepad. On the pad she wrote in an elegant handwriting:
Aryia Kozyki was under my care, please excuse her for being late.
—Dr. RialBookmark here

After ripping off the paper she handed it to Aryia.
“Show that note to your teacher when you get to class.”
As Aryia looked over the note Melissa started to head for the door.
“Okay, well maybe I will see you again. Bye.”
* * *Bookmark here

Lylianna looked over the files of every Private in the Sylveria Army. Of all the Privates there was only one that stood out to her. Aryia Kozyki, age eighteen, fails to follow orders… She continued to read off the list of comments and facts on her dossier. Even if she didn’t follow the rules there was potential within her. Maybe I can see what she is made of tomorrow.
“What is it Ryliah?”
“I did some digging into where your sister could be…”
* * *Bookmark here

Aryia headed to history class after leaving the medical lab. The history teacher was busy giving a lecture on The Rose War, however, she stopped once she noticed Aryia entered the room.
“Private Kozyki, glad to see you decided to come to class.”
Most of the classrooms looked the same. Pine wood floor with raised benches all pointing down to the front of the room so the students could see the blackboard. As Aryia handed the note to the teacher she worried if it would be enough to excuse her from the first ten minutes of class. After looking at the note the teacher’s face began to turn as white as a ghost. She began to relive the painful memories with Doctor Rial after a weapon discharge left a large scar on her leg. Doctor Rial ended up removing the bullet without anesthesia or even numbing up the area.
Shaking the horror from her head she folded up the note and looked to Aryia.
“I am sorry you had to deal with her. Anyways, take your seat, please.”
Aryia seemed confused by what the teacher meant by that. She pondered it while she made her way to her seat.
“Now, continuing on with the lecture. General Ryuuriou is known to have won the War of Roses against General Hyatame…”
The teacher continued on with the lecture about the The Rose War that took place in the year 325 a.g. It was known as one of the bloodiest wars to ever take place in Alvenfhiem. As the teacher continued to drone on Aryia found herself not only bored but also a bit sleepy.
Hours continued to passed until the end of classes. Aryia was finally relived to be done. She quickly made her way back to her barracks — which acted like dorm rooms in normal schools — and laid down on her bed. All of the beds were lined up, spaced evenly with each other, and looked the same. Olive‑drab colored sheets with a white pillow; big enough to only fit one person, maybe two if the people were short enough. The barracks itself was no different then a standard army barracks aside from a large wooden bookshelf near the back wall.
While Aryia laid back on her bed she noticed her friend Mari reading a book entitled War of Roses. Unlike Aryia, Mari wasn’t a magic‑user of any kind. She would spend her time studying about the history of warfare and keep her mind sharp with tactics used in the bygone years.
She and Mari were the best of childhood friends. Mari always looked up to her ever since the day she save her from being bullied at the age of seven. As Mari looked up from her book she noticed Aryia laying on her bed, tired from today’s events.
“So, where did you run off to this morning?”
“I saw a court trial and got into a fight.”
“Same old Aryia. Always up to no good, aren’t you?”
“Only when I’m bored.”
“You’re almost always bored.”
Before Aryia could reply with a comeback the door of the barracks flew open as the sergeant with a loud voice yelled at the top of his lungs.
The whole room stood at attention. Aryia continued to lay on her bed as she was just to tired to even move. As the sergeant walked down the aisle of beds he noticed Aryia had not snapped to attention. While the military academy did train soldiers they were also considered students. Under the Code of Military Doctrine: Section of Military Laws harming students was prohibited in any physical way.
“Private Kozyki, I believe I ordered everyone at attention!”
She continued to lay there as if she hadn’t heard the sergeant’s booming voice.
“Did you?”
“You will stand at attention now soldier!”
Aryia stuck her tongue out in a playful manner while the sergeant looked as if he was about to pop another blood vessel. After a few seconds he had an idea and his angry expression formed into a calm one.
“You’re right, I can’t make you. However, I can punish the rest of the platoon for your insubordinate attitude.”
Walking to the end of the room he looked to everyone else that stood at attention.
“Everyone but Private Kozyki head outside now and get ready for a ten kilometer run.”
As the sergeant left the building the sounds of annoyance echoed throughout the room. Part of Aryia felt bad for getting Mari mixed up in her selfish desires. Within a few minutes everyone changed out of their MDUs — Military Dress Uniforms — geared up in their BDUs — Battle Dress Uniforms — and headed out the door.
Aryia laid there in her bed wondering about what she would do tomorrow. She grew tired of the boring daily routine; she wanted something different to happen. While she laid there thinking to herself the sudden sound of the door opening jarred her from her thoughts. She looked to see who was there but was confused when she saw there was no one.
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a shadowy figure standing beside her bed. Without any thought to her attack she swung her right arm horizontally at the figure. She soon realized the shadow she saw was only Lylianna. She caught Aryia’s wrist, stopping her attack as if it was child’s play. Aryia was a bit surprised to see her standing there.
“What are you doing here Major Veltress?”
“Just call me Lylianna, and I could ask you the same question Private Kozyki.”
“Aryia. As for why I am still here… the drill sergeant forced everyone but me to go on a ten kilometer hike.”
Lylianna’s expression never changed as Ayria continued to speak.
“In my defense, I hate being told what to do.”
“Perhaps the army is not the job for you.”
“Maybe so, but my family was the military type. My grand parents actually served in the The Rose War.”
“So, you are simply following in your family’s footsteps.”
“No, I want to free this whole world of war.”
“And how do you plan to do that?” Lylianna asked.
“I… I am not sure…”
“Next time think before you speak.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Before Aryia had time to blink Lylianna had completely disappeared from her sight. She questioned if she had just been dreaming. She laid back as a few hours passed. The rest of the platoon finally returned from their long hike. Cold stares of hate could be felt throughout the air. No one wanted to talk to Aryia aside from Mari who looked as if she was about to pass out. Mari ended up falling onto Aryia’s bed. Poor Mari, I should have just listened to the sergeant.
“I am so tired Aryia,” she said in a sleepy tone.
Mari laid there at the end of Aryia’s bed. Feeling bad for her, she grabbed Mari and helped her into her own bed. Mari’s head sank deeply into the softness of the pillow.
“We had to run ten kilometers; then we had to do one‑hundred sits‑up along with one‑hundred push‑ups and then run another ten kilometers back.”
Wow, that is rough, Aryia thought as she started to feel bad.
“Aryia, can you massage my feet? Please?”
She didn’t want to as she was not one for feet but part of her felt she needed to make it up to Mari. She slowly untied Mari’s bootlaces, slipping her boots off. Her black knee‑high socks were soaked with sweat and smelled awful. As she carefully removed her socks Mari looked as if she was relaxed.
“Hey Aryia…”
“What is it Mari?”
“Don’t forget we have that exam tomorrow.”
Aryia had completely forgotten about the exam. The exam was meant to test the student’s understanding of war tactics, order, and teamwork. It was made up of two teams — a red team and a blue team — that were randomized. Each team was made up of fifteen members on it. The goal of the exam was to capture the other’s team flag or eliminate all the players on opposing team.
Hopefully Mari and I will be on the same team.
* * *Bookmark here

The next morning every Private in the academy lined up with their platoon in the open field that would be used for the exam. While the field was quite large — about one‑hundred forty‑thousand kilometers squared — it did have a few different types of terrain from mountains to dense forest. Each team had a base camp that would act as their main base along with where their flag would be held.
It was 0850 hours and the instructor had yet to show up. After ten minutes had passed a tall man holding the rank of Second Lieutenant stood before all students lined up in a row. In his right hand he held a clipboard that listed out the teams and who would be on them.
“Listen up, today your exam begins…”
The instructor explained the rules of the exam and how the team that won would be eligible for a promotion to the rank of Corporal. As the instructor continued on with the rules Aryia started to feel bored and was ready to just start the exam.
“You must choose one member on your team to act as a general. They will be your leader…”
Aryia, along with the others, were puzzled by this new rule. In the exams past they never had to appoint a leader. Most of the exams were simple and would usually take an hour or two to complete.
“All of you will be given a rifle, pistol, rubber knife and two grenades. Don’t worry the guns only shoot paint balls, same for the grenades. If you get hit with a bullet or grenade then you are out…”
As the instructor continued on about where to go once a student was tagged with a paint ball he explained that they were free to use their magic.
“Once you capture the enemy flag you have to return it to your main base. Finally, all of you will be given three days worth of rations…”
Okay, that is new. How long is this exam. Actually, how big is this field, Aryia thought. The rest of the students gathered up their weapons and rations as well. Everyone also received a map of the area. Once everyone had their gear they stood in line and awaited further orders.
“Now, listen up as I call your name and your team color,” the instructor said as he looked to his clipboard.
Aryia’s heart was pounding as she prayed to the four goddesses’ in the sky. Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Belgore Lufrain, red team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Marilyn… uh… Marilyn Be‑Bel—”
“Its Marilyn Belzeir VI Fainalia de Celienya Von Reymilchstein Kozun, sir. However, feel free to call me Mari, sir.”
“Right, Mari, blue team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Rosé de Sinclair, red team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Izumi O’Hara, blue team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Lili Meltuşe, red team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Alice Yaro, blue team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Emilia Vallière, red team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Red, blue team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Lain Debella, red team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari.
“Aryia Kozyki, blue team…”
Please dear goddesses’ in the skies above, let me be with Mari. Wait, did he just say I was on the blue team? Thank the goddesses. Aryia was over joyed that she was on the same team as Mari. Of course, many of the other students hated the idea that Aryia was on the same team as them. They did not want her on the team due to her track record of not listening to anyone.
Once everyone was ready two instructors lead the two different teams to their main bases. After the two teams made it to their camps the sound of a loud horn bellowed through the air. This was the signal to start the exam.
“Wait, who is going to be our general in this exam?” one guy asked.
“I think Mari should be our general,” a girl chimed in.
Despite Mari having brown hair and no magic to speak of it was clear that almost all of the students wanted her to be the general to lead them. She seemed to be a bit embarrassed by the overwhelming support of her fellow students. Everyone knew that she would be a great general due to the amount of time she spent studying war tactics and history in general.
“Well, if everyone believes I should… then okay,” Mari said blushing a little.
In the center of the base camp was a large wooden table that everyone gathered around. Mari laid out the large map of the field taking note that she would have to use some math to calculate where their base camp was located. Aryia had no idea where anything was located on the map, while other students had a rough idea of where they were.
Mari worked out the calculations to triangulate where they were. It wasn’t an exact location but it was as close as she would be able to calculate without the use of a GPO — Global Positioning Orbiter.
“Why would they give us a map without any useful information on it?” one student asked.
“It seems the instructors want to make sure we understand the art of intelligence gathering. That would explain why we cannot see anything on this map.”
Wow, she is so smart, Aryia thought.
“Do you know where the enemy base is at?” Aryia asked.
“I have a rough idea but I am not one‑hundred percent sure.”
“Then lets go attack them!”
Aryia’s outburst was met with expressionless stares from her teammates. Her outburst of stupidity made most of them question just how useful she would be. However, Mari knew that Aryia just had her own way of looking at things. Of course, war tactics was not her most strongest of suits.
“Aryia, that would be stupid. Think about it, if we just go and attack them without knowing what we are facing then it will be a losing war. If we want to win we need to be smart and treat this like a real war.”
Aryia’s head lowered slightly. It was heartbreaking for her to hear her own friend basically telling her that her idea was stupid. Mari placed her hand on Aryia’s shoulder.
“Look Aryia, you’re a great scout due to your speed but you need to think logically and be tactical about things from time to time.”
Aryia looked away like a small child being scolded by a parent.
“Aryia you’re my best friend and I trust you so trust me as well, okay?”
With a simple smile Aryia nodded.
“I do trust you.”
Mari continued to study the map, trying to work out what would be the best way to scout out the field and defend the flag. She could tell from the map that there would be a few choke points that could decide the outcome of their battles. As she studied the map the others waited around, striking up conversations about non‑trivial topics.
“All right, with fifteen people we should split two groups of four people into a scout team and an assault team.”
“Why two groups of four?” one girl asked.
“A four man team is adept enough to be of use in any situation.”
Mari looked over to Aryia.
“Aryia, I want you to take Izumi O’Hara, Alice Yaro, and Red. You will be leading the scout team.”
“You can’t be serious,” Red said with an annoyed look on his face.
“Do you have a problem with me being a leader?”
Aryia stared threateningly at Red. It was clear to everyone around them that the two of them would not get along.
“Yeah, I do. I don’t like the idea of being under an incompetent leader like you.”
Before Aryia could say anything Mari quickly chimed in.
“Noted, next is the assault squad.”
Mari continued to break off the fifteen students into smaller, more manageable, fire teams. In total there were four units. Scout, Assault, Rook One, and Rook Two fire teams. Aryia felt as if Mari was taking this seriously. She knew that she would need to be serious as well and do the best she could.
Once Mari assigned the teams she gathered everyone around the map. Grabbing a few small rocks from the ground she placed them on various places on the map.
“Okay, fire teams One and Two set up a defensive position due North of the forest here,” she said pointing to one of the rocks.
“Roger,” the Rook team leaders said together.
“Assault team, your job is to cover the right flank for now. Once we scout out the enemy base however, be ready to join up for an attack with the scout team.”
“What should I do?” Aryia asked.
“Aryia I want your team to scout out the mountain ridge‑line several clicks North‑West of here. That mountain will function as a tactical vantage point for us along with a temporary make‑shift secondary base.”
“Right! You can count on me. Lets go team!”
Aryia was eager to prove to Red that she was not incompetent in any way. Once everyone was ready the four of them headed North‑West. They crossed rolling grasslands with beautiful pine trees scattered over the vast landscape. With the morning dew setting into the untamed grass the whole scene was a painter’s dream come true. Two hours passed until Aryia finally noticed the mountain coming into view. A small forest separated the base of the mountain from the top. The treetops were thick and overgrown to the point that it was impossible to see anyone coming from the top of the mountain.
As the four of them pressed on through the dense forest they had finally made it to the clearing just at the base of the mountain. Aryia looked up to the mountain top and noted just how big it truly was. Its like a giant gray wall, she thought. Now we just need to hike up the mountain’s massive slope.
“So, what do we do now oh great leader?” Red said in a mocking tone.
“What is your problem Red?”
“Aside from the fact you’re the leader?”
“Red that is enough. Mari made Aryia the leader of the squad so you need to man up and deal with it,” Izumi said stepping in front of him.
Aryia was a bit surprised that Izumi was actually sticking up for her.
“G‑Guys w‑we s‑should t‑try t‑to f‑focus o‑on—”
Alice tried to get out her words out but unlike the others of the group she was very soft spoken and overshadowed by Red.
“Oh shut up Izumi. We both know Aryia isn’t worth the trouble. She is a failure as a soldier and as a leader.”
Before anyone else could speak a shot rang out. Red paint splattered on the ground a few centimeters from the group. The shot came from a sniper perched near the top of the mountain. It was a good thing for them that the sniper was a horrible shot.
“Sniper! Take cover,” Izumi yelled.
The four of them took cover behind a few of the large trees. They were hidden from sight due to the overgrown tree limbs and green foliage. However, it also made it impossible for the scout team to return fire from their current position. With this limitation they would be forced to step out in front of the sniper’s line of sight — which would be bad.
How did the red team get here before us, Aryia wondered.
“Return fire,” Aryia yelled.
As she stepped out from the large tree she tried to fire off a few rounds but she noticed that the weapon was only a bolt‑action rifle. Damn, why is it a bolt‑action rifle. She quickly hunkered back into cover, annoyed by that fact.
“Why did they give us a bolt‑action rifle? I hate these single‑shot type weapons.”
“Because stupid, a full‑auto rifle has no control,” Red said firing off a shot.
The four of them continued to fire randomly up at the mountain. All of their shots missed the sniper’s hiding position due to the inefficient range of their weapons. While the guns they held were once real, they were no longer used in today’s wars. It was a simple rifle that had a wooden base along with some metal parts. Unlike other rifles this one was so old that a small lever near the bullet chamber had to be cocked back just to load another bullet into the chamber. The rifle was accurate to about two‑hundred fifty meters. Aryia did not like this type of rifle at all.
Peeking her head out Aryia tried to get a fix on the sniper’s location, however, a stray paint ball forced her back into cover. If that shot had come any closer I would have been out for sure, she thought.
Aryia wondered if the sniper was alone or if it was two of them working in a pair. Her team continued to blind fire up the mountain as she tried to come up with a plan. Red has his fire magic, Izumi has her water, while Alice…
“Alice can you make a large rock near the base of the mountain?”
“What is the plan Aryia?” Izumi asked firing another round.
“I will use Alice’s rock as cover and if she can get the rock to follow my movements up the cliff face it should allow me to see the sniper and possibly get a shot on them.”
“Possibly?” Red questioned.
“And what about Red and myself?”
“Both of you should lay down what suppressing fire you can to keep the sniper from firing on me as I move.”
“All right.”
Slamming her palms into the ground Alice was able to form a rock that was just big enough for Aryia to take cover behind. Izumi and Red began to fire off shots alternating back and forth. This is my chance, Aryia thought. Using the power of her wind magic Aryia dashed behind the rock Alice had made. She tried to listen closely to the volley of the bullets to try and pin point the location of the sniper.
One shot rang out.
Followed by a second shot.
Within a fraction of a second a third shot could be heard.
Aryia quickly hurried up the side of the slope. She was moving so fast that Alice had some trouble keeping up with her movements. She stopped half‑way up the mountain but was completely out in plain view for the sniper. As the sniper aimed their sights on Aryia and loaded the weapon, they fired a shot. At the very last second a rock appeared in front of Aryia blocking the paint ball.
Peeking her head out quickly Aryia was able to get a fix on the sniper, noting that the sniper was a female and she was alone. Okay, this is my chance to prove myself. Aryia believed this was her chance to get shot on the sniper. She waited for the sniper to fire. One… two… three…
She dashed quickly from behind the rock and straight up the mountain. As she came closer she noticed that the sniper was Rosé de Sinclair, a wind magic‑user like herself. Using her wind powers Aryia began to dash even faster then before straight up the mountain. Her idea was to use the lip of the mountain ridge as a ramp to gain just enough air time to get a shot on Rosé. Once she was near the top she flew into the air three meters — spinning one‑hundred eighty degrees. Aiming her rifle carefully, she fired a shot hitting Rosé in the back.
Aryia landed on her feet at the top of the mountain. She noticed that there was no one else on the mountain top. As Rosé stood up she held up her hands and smiled.
“Wow, that was some nice teamwork there Aryia.”
With a simple wave of her hand she began her walk to the elimination zone. The rest of Aryia’s team made their way up the mountain as Aryia took in the sight of the astonishing view at the top. Once all the members had gathered at the top Izumi looked to Aryia.
“What are your orders?”
“We hold up here I guess.”
The four of them set up camp by using Alice’s earth magic to create a small dome fire pit on the ground along with small stone shaped beds for each of them. Izumi gathered what leaves she could from the forest below to try and make the beds a bit softer. After a few hours had passed all of them started to feel a bit hungry.
Looking over what supplies they had Aryia noticed that all the rations appeared to be the same, based on the ten point size font printed on the back. Rice pudding, beef & beans, and chocolate powder among other things. With these rations it was possible for one soldier to live off of a single ration for a whole day. However, most medics and hardened combat soldiers knew it was possible for a person to survive off of only one‑fourth of the ration — though it would not be filling for someone untrained to deal with it.
“It might be better if we all share one ration together,” Izumi said.
Being a medic in training she understood exactly how much nutrition the body needed to survive. While the portions would not be filling it would be enough to live and it would also allow their rations to last for longer then three days.
“That is a good idea,” Aryia said as she put away her ration.
“That is a dumb idea,” Red said opening up one of his rations.
It was clear to the other three that Red was not going to listen to anything anyone had to say. While he ate one of his own rations Alice shared one of her rations with Aryia and Izumi. As Aryia took a bite of the cold beef & beans she quickly wanted to throw it up. I had heard that military rations tasted like wet dog ass, but this is just horrible.
Hours passed as twilight began to fall over the horizon, painting the once green grass into a faded golden color. The air around the mountain top was quiet, almost perfect silence. Aryia recalled that Mari had never explained what to do after they made camp at the mountain. She figured that it would be best to just wait and see what happened. Waiting, ugh… I hate waiting.
Izumi, Aryia and Alice sat around the dome that held the fire, crackling as the wood burned slowly. All of them had sat in silence for some time until Izumi asked everyone why they joined the army.
“I dreamed I would one day become a great medic like Doctor Rial, so I ended up joining the army so I could study and get paid to do it,” Izumi said hugging her knees to her chest.
“I‑I j‑just w‑wanted t‑to o‑open u‑up a‑a f‑flower s‑shop b‑but I‑I n‑needed m‑money.”
Everyone turned to Red.
“I have my reasons.”
Without another word Izumi and Alice turned to Aryia.
“What about you Aryia?”
Aryia thought for a second. She had joined the military to try and end the war. Maybe it was a childish dream but she truly wanted the war to end.
“When my parents died I realized that my only dream was to try and end the war that plagues our land.”
At first no one spoke. In truth, everyone wanted the war to end but it was not so simple. The wars over the years had taken its toll on the kingdom as a whole, even if it did not appear to. On the Eastern Front Zone — known as the Rhyine Theater — the fighting ruined many lives in the City of Rhyine. So much so that the city was nothing more then rolling hills of black dirt and ruins.
“You’re delusional if you think you can end the war.”
“Shut up Red,” Aryia finally yelled.
Red pulled out his pistol and pointed it at Aryia. It took her a few seconds to realize that he was aiming his gun at her. Izumi quickly stood in between the two of them, hoping to stop the needless violence.
“Knock it off you two, we have a mission to complete.”
After a few intense seconds — that felt like minutes to Aryia — Red finally holstered his pistol. Aryia decided it would be better for her to leave the camp. She figured scouting out the area alone would be the best for everyone.
“I am going to scout out some of the land. Everyone hold your positions here until I get back.”
Without another word Aryia headed out, down the slope of the mountain.
* * *Bookmark here

Camping out a few kilometers from the battle zone was a base camp in the out‑of‑bounds area where all the privates stayed in tents until the exam was over. In the center of the camp was a large table with a map displaying the positions of the two main camps and landmarks of the area. Leaning against the table Lylianna looked over the field map noting all the possible choke points and how each team was doing. Beside her was Melissa placing down markers to show where each of the teams were from when she last scouted the area.
As she studied the map, one of the instructors made his way over to her. After saluting, he spoke.
“Ma’am, as ordered I have learned that the red team had their first causality around 1205 hours, ma’am.”
“Any idea who?”
“Yes ma’am, the causality appears to be Private Sinclair, ma’am.”
“I see. Dismissed.”
The instructor left as Lylianna continued to look over the map. She could see in her mind how this war was going to play out.
“So, what do you think Major?”
“I think we should see how she handles herself.”
* * *Bookmark here

Aryia felt lost as she wondered through the overly dense forest. Looking at her watch she noticed it was going on 1920 hours. With the last bit of light fading she decided it was time to return to her unit. As she looked around she noticed a bright light in the far distance. She soon realized that what she believed to be a light was actually a fire. The fire was spreading far too quickly to be a natural wild fire which worried Aryia. There is no way that is a natural fire. It has to be from a fire magic‑user.
Doing what she was good at Aryia used her wind magic to dash in the opposite direction of the flames. It was hard for Aryia to know just what direction she was running in due to her horrible sense of direction. Suddenly, two female soldiers appear in front of Aryia, aiming their rifles at her. One shot rang out as she quickly dodged to the side, pulling out her pistol to shoot back. However, the girl managed to back‑flip out of harms way. Another shot rang out, missing Aryia by a few centimeters.
Unsure where to go Aryia continued to run as the two soldiers gave chase. It took a second but Aryia began to realize that the two girls giving chase were able to keep up with her. They have to be wind magic‑users like me. She continued running as she tried to fire off a shot but ended up missing. It was hard for her to aim and keep up her constant velocity. As Aryia turned around to look where she was going she noticed a tree appear in front of her. Holy crap! Swerving to the left she managed to barely miss it. She continued on until she saw a clearing a few meters out.
Dashing even faster Aryia finally reached the clearing. She was running so fast that she ended up hovering a few centimeters off the ground. Turning quickly she fired off two shots in rapid succession. Both shots missed forcing the other two wind‑users to scatter to her left and right. As her feet touched the ground Aryia braced herself, sliding against the dirt the friction forced her to come to a stop. Dropping to one knee she aimed her pistol at the wind‑user to her left.
Aryia had the girl in her sights. She recalled how the loudmouth sergeant nagged her for taking her time, so without a second thought she squeezed the trigger. As if flying in slow‑motion the paint ball hit the girl in her left arm. The other girl on the right side aimed her weapon and fired. Aryia quickly tumbled out of the way and tried to aim her gun on her target. No time to think, just shoot. Firing off one shot Aryia managed to hit the other girl in the chest.
Once she realized there were no more people around she quickly tried to catch her breath. I should have brought my water and some food, she thought as she started to walk back to her team, slightly exhausted from the skirmish.
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Two‑hours and twenty‑minutes had passed. Darkness fell upon the land making it hard to see things from afar. After the long and grueling walk back to the mountain Aryia was greeted by staring down the barrel of two rifles.
“Its just me.”
Aryia raised her hands to show that she was not a threat in any way. As Izumi and Alice lowered their weapons Aryia noticed that Red was no where to be seen.
“Where is Red?”
“He disobeyed orders and went off on his own after you left.”
“Good, we didn’t need him anyways.”
“While that may be true, however, saying something like is a sign of poor leadership.”
She was at a lost for words. Am I really that bad of a leader, she thought. Without any words to say Aryia sat down beside one of the large rocks. Izumi sat down next to her while Alice watched one side of the mountain.
“I saw the blaze a few kilometers out. Care to explain that Aryia?”
“I ended up coming in contact with two members of the red team. The two were wind‑users like me. However, I am unsure about the fire.”
As Aryia got up to look out into the darkness she could see a heavy orange blaze raging in the distance.
“At the very least I believe it was a fire‑user. My guess is they were trying to trap me.”
Suddenly, the sound of rocks sliding down the mountain could be heard. Aryia and Izumi quickly picked up their guns as Alice headed to the other side and prepared to open fire. Leaning over the edge, the three of them trained their weapons in the direction of the sound. Standing before them was a soldier who was on their team. He quickly raised his hands.
“Friendly! Friendly!”
The three of them quickly lowered their guns once they saw he was one of their own. After a bit of explaining the guy handed a note to Aryia from Mari explaining what her team should do and about what was happening. As she opened the note, she could tell that it was from Mari due to the handwriting.
To Aryia,
Our right flank was wiped out. We were forced to shift our fire teams to the right flank. I need your team to check out the left side. If their defense is focused on the right side then logically the left should not be as protected. Should you see a chance to take the red team’s flag from their base, take it. Good luck.
—MariBookmark here

“Tell Mari that I will check it out. Also tell her that we eliminated three of the red team’s members so far.”
The courier nodded as he made his way down the mountain and into the darkness.
“All right, lets move out,” Aryia said as she gathered up her supplies.
After traveling a few clicks from their current position the three of them came to a tempered area with a lot of overgrown grass. The trees were far more dense then any of the other forest areas. Aryia and the others managed to find a river that was flowing due South from what Izumi could tell. There was a small open meadow just near the river bank, however, setting up a normal camp there would be too obvious.
“Hey Alice, any chance you could morph this clearing into a rolling hill that blends into the environment?” Izumi asked.
“Y‑Yeah. I‑It w‑will t‑take s‑some w‑work b‑but I‑I c‑can t‑try.”
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As the three slept inside the earth igloo that Alice created for them, she found herself waking up after feeling tiny vibrations in the ground. The hill was well camouflaged to look as if it had always been there. While most people would see it as a normal hill a trained earth magic‑user would be able to detect if there were any life forces inside — assuming they were within range.
Alice quickly sprang to her feet, trying to wake up Izumi and Aryia. She knew that they would not have long if the enemies were earth‑users.
“I‑Izu‑Izumi, A‑Ary‑Aryia, w‑wake u‑up,” she whispered.
Waking up from their peaceful sleep, Izumi quickly grabbed her gun as Aryia rubbed her eyes.
“T‑There a‑are t‑three p‑people t‑ten m‑meters f‑from u‑us.”
Before Izumi could ask if any of enemies were earth‑users the igloo quickly started to break apart. Alice braced the igloo with pillars of dirt so the three of them could get out in time. Seconds after Alice left the dirt hill it began to cave in on itself. While Izumi and Aryia managed to get to cover quickly, a stray shot hit Alice square in the gut.
Aryia and Izumi laid down suppressing fire after realizing where the shot came from. Maybe I can flank them from the right side, Aryia thought.
“Izumi, cover me.”
As Izumi continued to fire off single shots Aryia dashed to the right flank, however, she found herself quickly ducking behind a rock after a shot rang out, missing her by a few centimeters. Aryia found herself pinned down by one of the of enemies and unable to move. She was unsure what to do. After thinking for a bit she remembered that she still had two grenades. Pulling the pin from one of the grenades she blindly threw it overhead — hoping by the grace of the goddesses that it would hit the target.
“Grenade! Take—”
Peeking up from behind the rock Aryia noticed that there was still one guy left who was to focused on Izumi to even care about her. Taking aim Aryia fired one shot hitting the guy in the arm. After the fire fight Izumi walked over to Aryia.
“It looks like they got me. Good luck Aryia.”
With a simple pat on the shoulder Izumi headed out of the forest and for the elimination zone. As Aryia sat there against the rock she found her eyes slowly starting to close until she finally drifted off to sleep.
* * *Bookmark here

Lylianna lit a candle and placed it at the end of the table. Melissa, Deadeye and Ryliah stood there looking at the map as they ate a few cold rations. Most of the students that had been eliminated were asleep in their tents, waiting for news about if their team would win.
“Any news on how things are going?” Lylianna asked looking to Melissa.
“So far it seems that part of the forest here was burned down.”
“What is Aryia’s team doing?”
“Last I checked…”
As Melissa continued to explain what intelligence she had gathered Izumi overheard her mention Aryia’s name.
“Excuse me, did I hear you asking about Aryia?”
Lylianna turned to Izumi along with the others. After Izumi’s eyes adjusted to the dim‑lit light she realized that the four people in front of her were officer ranking.
“S‑Sorry,” Izumi said saluting.
“At ease. Now do you know something about Aryia?” Lylianna asked looking back at the map.
“Yeah, she is the last one left on our squad aside from Red but I have no idea where he ran off to. Before I got shot we were around this area.”
Izumi pointed to the area on the map of their last known location.
“Is there some reason as to why you are interested in Aryia, ma’am?”
“It is better if you don’t know.”
With those words Izumi had an uneasy feeling.
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Aryia awoke the next morning slightly confused. It took her a few seconds to realize that she had fallen asleep in the forest. I can’t believe I managed to sleep in a forest like this. After hearing her stomach growl louder then a train whistle she opened up one of her rations. Eating cold beef & beans almost made her sick to her stomach. As she ate her meal slowly she could her the sounds of birds flying overhead. Now what do I do, Aryia thought as she took another bite.
Once she was finished she looked over the rushing river. While the current wasn’t strong enough to knock her down, it was still moving slightly fast. The river was to wide to jump, even with a running start. I guess I have to cross it, she thought. Not wanting to get her BDU wet she removed her military boots and socks. Upon rolling up her pant legs she stepped into the water. Holy crap! That is way too cold. Treading carefully Aryia walked through the knee‑deep river feeling the small pebbles and sand against her bare feet. As she continued she hoped that no one would get the drop on her.
After crossing the river she waited a few minutes to let herself dry off. As she sat against a tree. She opened the note from Mari and read over it again. I guess I need to scout out this area. Chances are the enemy base is nearby, she thought as she put her socks and boots back on. She made her way through the dense forest until she came to a clearing in the heavy thicket of woods. Noticing a few tents ahead she dropped to her stomach, hitting the dirt hard.
Glancing over the area she could see many tents along with a few members of the red team. As she surveyed the land she was startled by the sudden sound of a man’s voice.
“Don’t move.”
How did they know I was here? Aryia could feel the barrel of the man’s weapon against her head. Part of her was afraid, yet another part of her wondered why he had not fired his shot yet.
“Man, you are to easy to sneak up on.”
Wait, that voice…
Turning around slowly her gaze met the man who was kneeling beside her. It was Red, smirking at the fact that he got the drop on her. Even if she hated the guy, she had to admit that she was glad to see him. As he laid prone beside her, she turned back to the camp to watch the other team.
“So, where were you?” Aryia whispered.
“Unlike you — I was busy gathering intelligence.”
Now she wasn’t glad to see him. As the two of them watched the camp in front of them Red went over what he had gathered from watching the main camp for some time. Summing up the main points he concluded the main camp was lightly defended and — with a bit of planing — could be taken out pretty easily. For once the two of them were in agreement about something.
Aryia looked over how many magazines she had left. With all the fire fights she had been in she was running low on ammo for her rifle. Taking her by surprise, Red handed her a few magazines he still had.
“Don’t waste them.”
She quietly loaded her weapon and thanked him for the ammo.
“So, what is the plan Red?”
“You can attack from the East flank, and I will attack from the West flank.”
“That is a plan I can get behind.”
“Yeah, attack the place in ten minutes no matter what.”
Red quietly got up and circled around the camp’s outer edge to the West side as Aryia waited there looking at her watch. It was 0830, according to her watch. The waiting was killing her, with each passing minute feeling like an eternity. After ten minutes had passed Aryia quickly got up and started to rush the enemy camp. Running and gunning down each enemy that came into view.
As Aryia flanked the East side, Red finally rushed from the West side skillfully taking out each enemy with a single shot. After eliminating the whole camp Aryia quickly found the red team’s flag and ran back for the safety of the woods. Red followed behind after setting fire to the main camp. The two of them ran as fast as they could — heading for their home base.
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The mountain top was quiet as Aryia and Red sat in silence eating their rations. It was almost hard for her to believe it but they had managed to captured the red team’s flag. Now they just needed to get back to their base camp with it in one piece. I hope Mari is all right, Aryia thought as she stared out at the picturesque landscape. Red was busy looking at the map trying to figure out how the enemy would move and where they might be. He was a bit surprised that they had not ran into anyone else from the other team along the way to the mountain.
After a few minutes Red had figured out that it would take about two hours to get back to their main base. Once the two of them were finished eating and had an idea about what to do, they both headed out. Aryia was quite happy that they would win this exam.
When they got to their main base the quiet stillness of the base camp filled Aryia with a bit of worry. Where is everyone, she wondered. Red was also worried, as he noticed that their flag was still in the same place that it was always in.
“I don’t like—”
Before Red could finish his sentence a single shot rang out from in front of them. As Red looked down at the red paint splattered on his vest he knew he was out.
“Damn it!”
As Aryia readied her weapon she noticed people coming out of the forest, their guns aimed at her. She was surrounded by the red team. Walking out from the East side was young man holding a girl hostage. Belgore Lufrain — the red leader — had managed to outsmart Mari and take her hostage.
Belgore stood seven meters away from Aryia as he held his pistol to Mari’s head. While there was no rule against using hostages, no one had ever thought to use a tactic like this before.
Think Aryia, think… what can I do to get rid of all these people? Aryia closed her eyes as she holstered her gun. This is the only thing I can do. Holding out her arms, she breathed and exhaled slowly. Lets do this! Spinning around on the ball of her foot like a figure skater, a strong wind began to form around Aryia as bits of dirt and pebbles kicked up violently. The faster she spun the more visible the wind current could be seen. She continued to twirl faster and faster, unable to get a sense of what was happening around her.Bookmark here

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