Chapter 23:

Chapter 20. Second Mission Assignment

Another Story [Hiatus]

December 7, 1991
To my beloved mother,

I visited Dr. Van Dijk as you have told me to do so a few days ago. He said there's nothing to worry about. Must've been my hormones acting weird recently, he said. If this persists until next year, he prompted me to come back and go for another check-up. Nothing to worry about.

By the time you might receive this letter, it might already be Christmas. So, Merry Christmas! I will try to send another letter before New Year's.

Anna and Olivia are fine, they are scoring really well with their tests recently at school. They like maths in particular, to my surprise. I really hoped you'd be able to come back here for Christmas and New Year's to see how much they've grown. They aren't the little girls you saw when you left.

I miss you, and I know that my little sisters do so too.

Below is a poem, again. I hope you enjoy it as much as the last one I sent.

A night shine bright up a hallow sky,
vividly daydreaming notions up high.
Living happily for illusions prize.
Lasting endurance that passion entice.

Cold breeze that boils blood,
and a feather of hope spreading spring's bud.
Relations blooming in reasons fate and hope.
Love everlasting in maiden's heartbroken slope.

Unshaken skin where bones tremble.
Holding up hope in a wasteland's temple.

Wishing you the happy holidays,
Your daughter, Maria Adelaar.
Utrecht, The Netherlands

===Bookmark here

Oh, mother. How I wish to see you, but also forget about you. Please do not haunt me this way. Is what I did that wrong? What happened is beyond my own conscience. I did not know why it came to that. I did not know that the nightcrawler would do that. Please, forgive me. . .

Luckily this time, I didn't wake up to someone tugging up my sheets. This time, I woke up with the sound of buzzing people from the street outside. People who are setting up their stalls, people who are picking up fights for a good spot to place their stalls, et cetera. I am somewhat relieved that no one saw me desperately looking for my mother, especially May. She might misunderstand things. They would never understand the position I am in. Oh, how I wish to just forget everything. I had the chance taken away from me, and I have been searching for it endlessly after. Julian seems to be the only one I know about who has knowledge about it. Sometimes it is frightening to know about the past. Especially when the past is trying to bring you back with its bloody claws. Bookmark here

I try to gather myself putting up a face that might be comparable to the revelry outside. I cannot face May, who seems to be already preparing breakfast downstairs, with this look. I look tired and haggard. My body is also kind of sweatyーprobably from me moving around in my sleep.

I walk out my door and into the bathroom. I quickly wash my face gathering some water from a small tub and try to rinse out my haggard look over the sink. As if hearing my rumble, May suddenly yell from the kitchen, "Are you awake?" That should be my question; why is she awake this early?

"Yes!" I yell back at her. I then soon realize that the end of the week is over. We will soon receive new orders for the next mission. A more dangerous mission, this time.

"Come down, quickly. It's almost time to go," she yells back again. I hurry with washing my face and making sure I rinse off whatever was left of my scragginess earlier.

"Yes, let me just dress up!" I head quickly back into my room and grab my uniform and dress back into it. Buttoning up the buttons and putting on my vest.

After having done dressing up, I went down to check up what she has been cooking. To my disappointment, it's a stench of something familiar yet dreads me. Sheep's milk, probably from the same sheep we own. Where did she get it from? I want cow's milk.

To my delight, though. It seems that May already dressed herself up for the briefing. She has the maestro's uniform on, with the same color scheme as that of ours, but in a darker hue. Her dress is somewhat more mature-looking than the dresses worn by the women in the class. It is all but fastened by a similar fashioned leather belt with a golden buckle. Although, her vest is without any badges, for she is a maestro.

"Breakfast is almost ready, it's your favorite porridge," she said. Yeah, right. My favorite, indeed. "Go set the table with some bowls and spoons."

Setting up the table is an easy task, the hard task is to swallow the porridge. I know that I have always eaten sheep's milk porridge but ever since I have come here in Dirya, I have grown accustomed to cow's milk.Bookmark here

I eat slowly, trying to hide my actual feelings regarding the concoction ahead of me. I do not wish to offend May with her cooking. I smile at her whenever she was looking at me for affirmation if the food was good. I probably shouldn't lie about this trying to avoid further misunderstandings that I want more of this porridge in the future.

"So, are you ready for the briefing?," she asks while I am gorging the porridge.

"Well, I do not know what to expect," I reply. I almost vomit the porridge as I try to speak but soon swallow it all back in.

"Hmm?" she’s probably wondering why I almost vomited, "I do not know for sure, myself too. Other maestros and I will have a briefing before the actual section briefing. I was rather thinking if your maestro, Haila, said anything other than that it is about the bandits."

"No," I replied "she didn't tell us anything more."

She nods and we continue our 'peaceful relishing' of the porridge. As soon as we were done we headed to the exit of the house and left. May locking the door, again, on her way out. We stop by a little stall in front of the house where we buy from a friendly vendor some fruits to munch on.

The morning sun and the cool breeze that comes along with it might be a good start to my day alreadyーtrying to forget the porridge. Bookmark here

Making our way to the school wasn't that exciting, apart from me thinking about the mission and the rest of my division. I am quite nervous about how it will go, as I have never really executed a successful offensive incantationーwell, not really going to count the time at Andri's. Although, I somewhat get the gist of how to do it. I hope I won't disappoint my division.

Once we arrived inside the school againーthe majestic and lavish interior of the school, we were greeted by the sight of familiar faces. Faces of Mia, Mimi, and Jayde. Mia and Jayde waves at us as they were looking out to the entrance from near the grand staircase. Mimi only looks at me with her usual gazeーI didn't expect more from her, actually.

May pushes me towards their direction also indicating that she has to go to her briefing. "Go and have fun, don't be late though. I'll see you," she makes her farewell.

I smile back at her, "see you!"

When I am finally with the group of my division mates, I am welcomed by a big and tender hug from Mia, "Good morning! It's nice to see you again!"

Her hug is then followed by another hug from Jayde, "Oh, man. You look like you've grown taller over the end of the week. You ate lots, didn't you?" he smiled at me while looking from the top of my head to my toes, "Just kidding." He then followed up on his hug with two kisses on each cheek, probably a custom I didn't know of.

I am waiting for a similar response from Mimi but she just holds her stance and says a simple, "Hey."

I nod back at her and say "Hi, nice to see you again."

"Yeah, nice to see me," she replies.

"Come on, now," said Jayde. "We have a briefing to attend in a bit. No time for your love quarrels."

Mimi glares at Jayde, but I just follow his lead to the section room. Mimi is enthusiastic as always, not a surprise there. It feels kind of nice to be back with my friends. They are a really warm set of people. I hope that this continues even after and during the mission. We start to discuss while walking to the section room about what to expect on the mission. We also try to go through with what we know thus far. Although, no one really knew much about itーeven Mimi, a princess. Bookmark here

We arrive in the section room again with people looking at us, as if waiting for us. We aren't late though, as people are chattering about the mission themselves while waiting for Haila to arrive. We take our usual seating; Jayde next to me, Mimi and Mia behind us. Despite the previous tense aura everyone was emitting during the last briefing, we were greeted by an aura that seems to be of excitement. People are probably hyping themselves up for the mission, putting the negative energy aside, and letting the positive one take over. A good thing for us, who didn't take part in the previous mission.

The rest of the division and I aren't really talking much, we are more observing the other divisions and listening in on their conversations, trying to snoop out some information. Bookmark here

Once Haila enters the room, everyone becomes quiet as usual. We all wait for her to find her spot in the center again and place her stacks of papers on the table. Her walking is kind of irregular today, looks as if she has been thinking about something quite a lot. Once she has found her spot, she announces to my expectations, the usual "Good morning!"

This time I react at the same time with everyone, "Good morning!" we all reply back.

She then takes initiative informing about the case immediately, "Alright, firstly, I want to welcome you all back to the school. I hope you guys had a good rest and everything went alright," she said. After taking in some nodding responses from the section she continued over to the important part of the briefing. "Okay, good that everyone is well. I want to be very clear with this one, don't hesitate on asking questions," trying to reassure that everyone is focused. "So, the next mission everyone will be doing for the next couple of days is to suppress the bandits up in the western forests. It is about a day's journey from here and it would be your responsibility to go there alongside your group," she says clearly. Everything is clear so far.

Despite this, a hand from someone rises up and asks a question, "Our own responsibility as a group?"

Haila then quickly replies, "Yes, this is to make sure that we aren't ambushed as a whole section."

The student understands. I understand as well. It might indeed be dangerous to travel in a big group as we are more susceptible to a bigger ambush from the enemies. Having to arrange the travels ourselves, this makes it more random and unpredictable for the enemies. And despite our status as students, we have enough power to actually fight off some bandits. This, I realized while being with Andri as he is very much so capable of everything, truly deserving of his place here in the third sectionーprobably even capable of getting into the second section if possible.

Another hand rises up, now from a familiar person, Jayde, he asked the following, "how long is the travel exactly? And when do we need to arrive there? Sorry, I wasn't on this mission last time."

"It's alright. The travel is approximately a day off to the west, you just have to follow the western road through Orma and Liriag. There is already a field camp ready where the royal guards set up. And no need to worry about knowing the way, because this mission will be a joint mission."Bookmark here

Jayde then sits stunned at what he heard, "A joint mission?"

"Yes, we will be mixing you up, so that each of the four groups we will be making has one member from each division," Haila said. She then takes out what seems to be a fedora with some paper inside, seemingly like a lottery bag, "I will put four pieces of paper for every time I walk by your areas"

She means that she will be walking to each table where all divisions are grouped up together and make them pick a piece of paper with the number one to four. Then that number will then decide which group you are in.

She walks around from table to table making people choose a piece of paper. I am quite nervous about this as I do not know who I am going to be grouped up with.Bookmark here

Since we were the last ones who entered the classroom again, we are the last ones to go pick our numbers. After a while of making the others pick out their numbers, she then makes her way to our tables and gives us instructions, "Alright, Yttrancians, pick a single piece of paper, each of you."

Jayde first picks a piece of paper and does not open it, he is probably waiting for me to pick one as well. Next is my turn, I scramble my hand in the hat trying to pick a piece of paper. Once I feel like the piece of paper that's in my grasp is the one, I take it out from the hat and keep it closed. I want to wait before everyone in my division got theirs.

"Ooooh! I wonder what number I will get!," says Mia in her demure posture while picking a piece of paper from the hat. After she gets her piece of paper, she then opens it without even thinking that we were waiting. "I got number two!"

I shake my head but what do I expect from Mia. It is Mimi's turn, she just quickly picks the last piece of paper and opens it without any further hesitation, "number four," she said unsurprised.

Jayde then opens his piece of paper and announces, "one!"

That would make me number three, "I am number three," trying to say it out despite that it's already obvious.

As if hearing my voice, Andriーover at the next table, "What luck I have! I am also number three!" he says very enthusiastically.

Afterward, Haila tells us all to sit together with our groups so we can get to know each other better and plan ahead. This is when I realize that my group mates are, of course, Andri Laurelia, and also surprisingly, Ono Hystiana, and Liliana Nolan. The latter set, people I have never talked to before. This will be the group I will be doing the mission with.Bookmark here

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