I rouse from the repetitive dream that I can’t even completely remember. Too vague to even grasp any details from it. And all I can do is put it right in the back of my head and get on with my day with the hopes I can finally get a clearer sight of it tonight. I’ve been having these for months now. Maybe a year, even. Can’t even recall when exactly it began. But nonetheless, I’m glad I’m still able to get enough sleep.
I rise and sit on the edge of my bed, dragging both my palms over my face to remove the remnants of drowsiness, including the formed crusts in my eyes. A sudden chill then brushes over my shoulders due to the wind from the window adjacent to the head of my bed. Through it, I can see that it’s still dark. My antique clock says it’s an hour and a quarter before sunrise. I woke up earlier than usual—if it weren’t for the dream. I guess that’s okay. Today is a big day and I don’t feel like falling back to sleep. Much better if I start preparing for the day. I stand to my feet and stretch before starting to do push-ups on the floor.
It’s my first day in the Front Soldier Division, and I’ll be scouting the sands beyond the Barrier’s Southeast wall sector. I’m partly excited and partly anxious, as well. But this is what I worked for twelve years in this academy. Working in the back lines was an option, but personally, I find it to be a tedious job. It’s not what I came all the way here for.
After doing a few sets of push-ups, I then slip on my green fatigue pants and a plain white shirt. Won’t forget my combat boots of course. Then I proceed to exit the corridors, where I’m greeted by the view of the boasting, mountain-like walls of the Barrier just a few kilometers ahead, and living behind it gives the experience of the day heat not until noon, which is nice. Six hours of total sunlight doesn’t give a tormenting day to go through. But that’ll be different from now on. It doesn’t kill the optimism, nonetheless.
As a child, I’ve always imagined myself wearing a Front Soldier suit and scouting the sans while taking down the Hellions behind it that we’ve been at war with for six centuries. That’s their territory, caged—encasing almost half the deserts of Sihraehi, and a portion of the plain lands of the Kalvarian empire. And that cage is what kept us all and everything else safe from them. So far, at least.
I then tread at a steady and quick pace through the halls until I reach the stairs descending to the campus grounds. Activities always start two hours into morning daylight and it’s still dark. The horizons are only starting to glow from the rising run. A few laps in the track field are a requirement every morning. My requirement to myself, at least. And after that, I’ll still have enough time to do some weapon training after.
I make it to the field, proceeding to build my pace into a jog. There are already a few people around, who either have duty today or are just about to take their rest after their night shift. Five laps after and my chest is heaving, so I slow down and redirect my steps to the gym that has an open area situated two buildings away, and is always open to whoever wants to spend time there.
I’m greeted with utter emptiness upon arrival. Good. It’s just the wooden dummies and chests of varying weapons bounded by chain fences. The other areas have their own assigned purpose. There’s the sparring area on the other side, then next to it is the actual gym.
I proceed to grab a pair of wrist wraps from the shelves and have them around my hands before proceeding to the field. Two swords from a chest begin my training over this one dummy. I fix my posture, then begin striking. I’ve been interested a lot in wielding two weapons besides the guns, shields, and armor. I spend almost an hour swinging the blade over a target dummy, making sure that every strike counts and doesn’t falter. It might become helpful today, at least, when one actually jumps out of the sands after weeks and counting of dormancy. All the Wall Sectors had no reports of seeing a Hellion in the sands. And it reemerged the rumors of a second war, which I rather find ridiculous.
My strikes begin to build up speed until that one slash sweeps through the dummy instead of just being stuck, then its other half falls. Not just that, but the blade as well. That’s the ninth time this month. They always keep the blades polished and the dummies durable But I guess that’s just another sign that the training paid off well. I guess that’s enough for now. Daylight’s here and I better get back and prepare. I quickly pick up the severed dummy and put them both in one corner, and so is the broken blade next to it, then remove the wrist wraps around my hands. They have a separate shelf for the used ones.
I stop on my treading upon seeing a familiar face on the other side of the fence, his grey suit of thick silk and leather hugging his frame standing out under the morning light. A Front Soldier suit. I then fix my posture, saluting him.
He rather finds it funny and chuckles. “It’s customary,” I reason, half serious. “You know that, sir.”
“Alright, kiddo,” He giggles this time. “Come here.”
I only laugh, losing touch in character, and then do what he said, walking along with him.
“They’re gonna make you pay for those,” He begins again, referring to the objects I broke, his face mixed with a teasing smirk. I guess he’s been here for a while then.
“Not like they ever do with the wolf-breeds breaking more than a few.”
“Fair,” He laughs as he’s a wolf-breed himself with a lot of history in breaking many things, either in training or some guy’s bones during sparring sessions. And a few girls’ hearts, probably. A lot of women wouldn’t not be charmed by that face. It’s obvious by his young appearance as if he’s just two days older than me, even though he’s already half the human lifespan. “You weren’t in your dorm so I assumed I’d find you here.”
I hum. “You know your godson so well. But you also know that you don’t have to keep coming around to check up on me, Alek. I’m a part of your squad now,” I say.
“I guess I have to start getting used to that,” He agrees. “And let go of how your mom would kill me if something happens to you.”
“You’re really a chicken to her, huh?”
“To your father, too,” He adds, to which I laugh. “He might pay me an unwanted visit at night.” I only giggle at that.
“But, I have to admit, I wish mom wasn’t living on the other side of the world.” That’s where I grew up, a farm village in a province. I used to play around with a wooden toy sword after helping my mother feed livestock and plant paddies. Then when I reached ten, that’s when I got brought here by Alek to study. It’s a rare opportunity to get into a military academy like this just near the barrier, knowing that it’ll be like early signing a contract to dedicate your life to keeping those creatures get even near those walls. “I plan to bring her to Otima once I earn enough, buy her a house there so I can visit her more often rather than every summer.”
“As if that would change anything from today,” He counters. “You don’t get leaves that easily in the Division, especially with the current status of the sands.”
“Or maybe, that’s their sign that they’ve finally given up preying on us.”
“The shield is still thin, Kyvin,” He reasons. “And behind the Barrier might not be only the place they’d be coming from. They might just start spawning out of places at one point. Much worse if from the oceans.”
“So, you do believe there’s going to be a second war?”
“No,” He says after a short while. “I don’t want to, at least. But their realm will always be there to prey on us no matter what.”
“Well, this is what we signed up for,” I say. “We’re always told to be prepared.”
“To fight? Yes.” He says. “To die? Not so much.”
“If that’s going to be my lifetime quote, then I should really convince mom to live in Otima once I earn enough,” I suggest.
He chortles. “Good luck with that. You already know what her take is.”
“Yes, I know,” I say, sounding sarcastic again. “That’s where she and my father built memories together until he died before I was even born, and she doesn’t want to abandon that home. Cliché.”
“Exactly,” He says. “But don’t judge your father. He’s a great man. You know yourself that he’d be as proud as your mom if he was here. And you can’t change how a world in war works. War is—”
“War is a game where death is the only winner,” I finish his sentence. “Yeah, you told me that a million times already. Even heard it in classes.”
“Good. You learned a lot in twelve years.”
“That included how to chop a solid dummy in half.”
He laughs. “Well, that’ll be useful for you from now on. I’ll see you at the Sector,” He then straightens his posture and gestures into a salute. “Private Licht.”
The exaggeration irks me a bit, so I give a blank stare. “If you’re going to call me like that every day in your squad, then I’ll just beg the High General to transfer me to the Wall Sentry Division.”
“Oh, good. Less trouble of letting you get eaten or blighted out there,” He says, playing along, which then has us laughing in unison.
He then pulls me into a fatherly hug, as he has always done since childhood. Back then, if he gets the chance, he’d visit home with a lot of gifts—commonly, dresses for my mother, and some toys for me. The most memorable one he brought for me was my wooden sword. He filled some fatherhood holes I had and is like an older brother to my mother. We owe him a lot. I owe him a lot. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. It’s not so easy to get into a sophisticated military academy, especially when I’m just a human from a distant province. They only select those qualified enough, but he made it possible. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay him. It’s only a matter of time before I find a way since I’m graduating today, and I better take it seriously. I only have one shot.
“I’ll see you, later,” We pull and fare each other well.
By the time I return to my dorm, a number of soldiers are just about to start their day. A good thing about being a Front Soldier is having my own bathroom, which makes it more convenient to prepare rather than going to public bathrooms. Might as well have us Front Soldiers have quality utilities when in return is half of the day scouting in the sands.
I spend a few minutes cleaning myself, making sure to remove every single hint of my bed’s smell combined with the sweat gained from training, and other unwanted dirt. I don’t forget to use a mint-flavored mouthwash, of course. Once done drying myself, I then slip on a dry tank top and a new pair of trunks before retrieving the set of garments hung behind the door and slipping them on as well. I already have prepared them yesterday. My own Front Soldier suit, which I couldn’t be any more proud of. I skim to take care of any remaining existent wrinkles, then fix my wavy dark hair to the back of my head. It’s grown a little which I like better. I have to be presentable as much as possible since it’ll be also the first time I’ll meet Alek’s squad. But before that, we’re to be welcomed in the division first.
I gaze at the adjacent drawer to my bed, where on top is a framed sketch of my mother and me in my infant days, then amble to hold it and caress my thumb on the glass keeping it intact. She smiles while I have an incomplete and crooked one as I have my chubby legs sitting on her lap. I was three here. I miss her already. I hope I’ll be able to visit her again sometime soon.
Behind the frame is a sketch of my father. His youthful face is barely perceptible with how the sketch has been aged and smudged with its own ink, but I never forgot how he looked even before it was like this. This is all I have of him, including the recognition of his name.
What pushed me to this ambition wasn’t completely because of his influence. Again, he died before even I was born. It’s rather mostly rooted in my mother when she’d tell stories about him as I grew, about how much of a righteous soldier he was. Simple and human. But him being a human and a Front Soldier, still has significance to me.
I sigh as I place it back. I better get going. Can’t be late on the first day. I take my rolltop backpack with a few necessary stuff, such as water, my military identification card, and a few clothes to change with. Being on the sand for six to eight hours will surely make this new suit drenched with sweat. I then exit the building, then the camp that is just adjacent to the main road. Taking the path from here on foot will lead me straight to the wall’s entrance.
The road is already filling up with morning people. Mostly with street shops and vendors and other soldiers that are just about to start their day as well. Even tourists. Yes, the Barrier is also a landmark for travelers to come by. They’d waste money just to get a tour within the wall and watch some Wall Sentries use the Hex Artilleries to obliterate some Hellions that would come by. But since there has been a dormancy going on for a while now, they’ve shut it down temporarily.
Crossing the T-intersection road, I arrive at the wall sector’s outlying headquarters. To enter, I present my identification card to the Wall Sentry stationed at the gate—a faun man in his later age with eyeglasses.
“You’re new here?” The way he said it didn’t even make it sound like a question at all.
“Yes,” I say still.
“Welcome to the army, kid,” He says, then chortles lightly as he hands my ID back. “Don’t die too soon.”
“I won’t,” I say, gesturing my hand to my forehead. I sensed the negativity behind that. It’s unusual for most of the people here to see a newly recruited human to be here in the barrier. Let alone, a Front Soldier.
The entire outskirts of the Barrier are camped by the armies. Most sentries rather have their headquarters here, and so within the walls themselves, plus the supplies that come from Otima and Kalvar.
An elevator is available ahead, which can take me to any of the two hundred eighty-five floors. But I’m not here for a tour. Upon reaching the intended floor, I cross the bricked bridge connecting to the inner layer of the wall, where most of the Front Soldiers are stationed. Every twenty floors of this layer are lined with Hex Artilleries, while double-sized ones are at the very top as they are very efficient with aerial strikes. All of them are manually operated, and they can be moved through the rail tracks they’re installed, which also makes them easily be sent down on the outlying camps just by letting them slide down the slanted parts of the walls if ever needed for maintenance.
From here, I can see the endless streaming man-made reservoir at the very bottom which supplies the water in the entirety of the Barrier, since it is conjunct with some rivers in the other sectors. Mostly Kalvar. Post-Hellion War, the Hellions eased in preying, and the remaining Ordinals and the Kalvarian Empire took the opportunity to build this landmark along with the Divisions. An Ordinal is assigned to each Wall Sector to be the Highest Ranking Officer besides the High Generals in each Division. In this sector, it’s Ordinal Twenty-Four.
I arrive at the hangar area located at one of the walls steep hills, where various vehicles meant to be used by Front Soldiers to scout the sands are stored. Sand Sliders are mostly used in this Sector, including the Eastern, South, Southwest, West, and Northwest. The North and Northeast’s environment is of plains, so they use different ones invented by Kalvarian technology.
The Sand Slider is similar to a boat used for the waters but made for swimming through the sand with surfing planks built beneath its hull instead. It has a roof for protection against sunlight and sand carried by the wind. The sail is woven from a different fabric to stand against those as well. A magic user or Hexborn Gustweaver is always necessary for a squad to draw the vehicle moving. Wind Gliders are also available for skywatching. But most of the time, the ravenbirds are the only ones who do those.
I’m just in time along with the new recruits who are also to have their first day as well. I then come to see another familiar face—who I’ve known since my sixth year in the academy—in her newly acquired Wall Sentry suit. I can see how proud and happy she is from the way her purple-shaded wings folded behind her back.
“Well, look who it is,” She greets with a welcoming beam.
“Almost didn’t recognize you with the new outfit,” I say jokingly.
“Ha-ha, way to greet a friend, Kyvin,” She rolls her eyes, then comes for an embracing hug. It’s her thing every time, even though we’ll just see each other again the next day. But since she already began as a Wall Sentry a week earlier than me, it’s only fair.
“How’s your first week here?” I ask as I return the gesture.
“A nightmare without anyone much to talk to,” She answers as she pulls and walks along.
“Did the new environment kill Grace Lazuli Karper’s social skills?” I smirk.
“No, I did make some not-yet-close friends,” She says with a complaining tone. “It’s just the nonstop workload for fourteen hours straight. I have to keep bringing supplies throughout the sector. They think it’s easy since I’m a bird. I feel abused.”
“Well, they did warn you about that prior to our graduation,” I say. “But, you got to get used to it. Unless you want to become a Front Soldier now, you can just approach High General Salma for a transfer. We can be the tandem again like we used to.”
“No thanks for the suggestion,” She says. “If it were an option with my grandparents’ agreement, I’d be fine in the Otiman Military Districts.”
“Of course, you would. More often to see Kyla,” I tease with a mischievous smile.
“Don’t start with me, Kyvin Licht.” She counters with venom yet her eyes are laughing as she turns red.
“You always want to see her.”
“You wouldn’t want to see your hair everywhere now, I swear to paradise.” She reddens more. “Don’t talk to me about my love life like that when you don’t have it yet.”
I gasped with an incredulous look, slightly offended by her sentence. “Really? Is that how it goes?” I chuckle.
To clarify, she’s only been the legitimate person in my social life. A friend since my sixth year in the academy. Her excellence in academics is what got her transferred to the academy from Otima. And her being the social person she naturally is what established a good companionship between us. The irony is there—while she, a ravenbird, excelled in the classrooms, I, a human, am one of those who stood out in physical and combat training activities. That made us a tandem in helping each other out in what we’re not so great at. I barely interacted with any other students then—or rather, they barely interacted with me, because they don’t find it appealing for a human to get into a sophisticated academy and then get into a sophisticated job. But, that part was never an issue for me. Still, her being there didn’t make my student years in vain.
“Happens so fast, doesn’t it,” She mumbles, contemplating over the miles-stretching walls in the distance through the opening of the hangar. I guess I’m not the only one reminiscing. “Back then, we barely get any sleep just to finish essays.”
“I don’t know if we’d even get any more sleep from now on,” I pout, pointing towards the distant walls. “I don’t know about you, though.”
“Well, that’s a part of what we signed up for, ever since we got into the academy,” She counters, then the verve in her tone changes. “To defend our world.” I’m then reminded of what Alek said earlier. To fight? Yes. To die? Not so much.
“Touche,” I only say.
I then notice the crowd forming into lines. I first give a questioning guise not until I notice a group of people arriving, led by a pair of soldiers each with a pole in hand—one with the Front Soldier Division’s flag and the other with the Ordinals’. Following them are two of the highest-ranking officers in the sector. Ordinal Twenty-Four, clad by her only weapon—an armor that is an Immortal Armament which she can break into pieces with her steel-shaping, Hexborn mind and form them into another weapon—and the High General Canmore, her embroidered badges which some gleam with the daylight, a proud faun as everyone would always see. They’re to give their declarations and welcome us.
I fare Grace well before proceeding to fall in line and stand firmly. Everyone else in the area who isn’t a new recruit does the latter as well, and every sound disappears, leaving the footsteps of the high-ranking officers consistently loud before they take a complete stop ahead of the very front row, which I’m currently standing in. I rather keep my gaze solidly ahead and only let them appear in my peripheral. The Ordinal parses us with her daggering eyes, ever so intimidating as what an Ordinal should be.
“New recruits,” The High General begins with an upright tone. “Today marks the first day of your journey as Front Soldiers, which means that this is where everything gets real.” She then begins ambling. “This is nothing like writing essays, solving equations, or even memorizing history, now that you’ll be a part of it. However, this is where your combat training comes to play.”
I doubt. The chances of getting our names put in funeral records are immensely higher than being put in history books. But I never plan to have mine in either.
“You know what you signed up for the very day you enrolled yourselves in the academies you graduated from. So I expect nothing else, but to do your job righteously and survive,” She continues. “But if some of you still have doubts, now is your last chance to change your minds. Everyone here has their right to make choices.” Then there’s silence, her eyes skimming each of our faces. She’s serious about her last sentence. “You.”
My heart skip a beat there, but it’s not me she called out. It’s rather the person next to me who has been sweating like a hog, eyes quivering. He looks like he hadn’t had sleep.
“Any doubts, soldier?” Asks the faun general. “You can still rewrite your contract and be transferred to the Wall Sentry Division.” She may be an inch shorter than me, but the aura she gives is enough to make someone faint.
The guy breathes heavily as if it was his last. I doubt he’s the only one like this. “No, ma’am. As you said, I knew what I signed up for.”
“Good,” She says to him, then raises her voice again. “I don’t tolerate death in my armies. But if you tolerate cowardice within yourselves, then you might just shorten your contract with him. Understood?” In many situations, some either come back alive still in one piece—or have already lost an eye—and still get another chance, or have the others return their bodies already in a casket to their homes and families. Or never have anything of them returned at all.
“Yes, ma’am!” We all scream in unison.
“As some of you may already know,” She continues. “There has been dormancy, which has never happened before in the history of these walls.” Low murmuring emerges from the crowd. “Scouting rotations have changed, which may have some of you be out there longer or shorter depending on your assigned squads and captains.”
“What a great first day,” I hear one whisper just two rows away.
“As for the Legionnaires assigned here at the Barrier, they’re also scouting the sands as well. Ordinal Three already had his conference with Kalvar’s sovereigns and are taking action.”
“What about the rumors, ma’am?” I hear one soldier ask from the other end of my row. Brave of him.
“Rumors?” She says, fascinated. “Ah, the one that has been scaring a lot of kids to this day—” The Ordinal halts her, and makes a gesture with her chin, asking to take her turn from there. The High General only returns to her side and lets her. Her heavier steps then stomp the polished cemented floor.
“What do you think soldier?” The Ordinal asks, voice carrying so much weight that I feel the soldier who asked the question is wishing he had no mouth at all. There’s just silence of thinking for a response.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, Great Legionnaire,” He finally responds.
“We’re not even over this war and many of you are already thinking of a second one,” She says. “This dormancy does not mean the sign of a second war, nor does it mean that the war is already over. We have no basis to hold on to.”
What does that mean, then?
“All I can say is what I always say to new soldiers that come here,” She says. “Do not hope for the worse. But always be prepared, nonetheless.” That, again, reminds me of what Alek said. To fight? Yes. To die? Not so much.
From here, I notice her eyes pass by me. It’s a quick one, yet it feels a little longer than how she looked at the rest, and it’s enough to make the pit of my stomach churn.
“Welcome to the Front Soldier Division.” That ends her speech. It’s short, and not what I expected.
“Dismiss,” Says the High General.
As they disappear from the hangar, that’s when everyone eases. I’m only stuck in the same position, my head stuck in how the Ordinal looked at me. Is this what it’s like after seeing one in person in that range? The thought never crossed my head. Perhaps because I’m never a fan. They’ve been either living saints or heroes to many people after they triumphed over the Old War that has also become the roots of replete, make-believe modern fables for children. They may have no known origin, but calling them saints is too ironic when less than half of a hundred of them remain alive. Most died in the war, while some chose to break their immortality to live a normal life on their own terms.
“Don’t tell me you want to back out now,” I hear Alek chime, pulling me back to reality.
“I don’t,” I say, chuckling. “When’s our departure?”
“Someone’s excited,” He says, and I follow beside him. “Our rotation starts in two hours. My fellas are already preparing our Sand Slider. But for now, you should get something to eat in the cafeteria before you meet the squad. Plus, you won’t be the only new recruit.”
“Oh, good,” I say. “I won’t feel left out for being the only newbie.” If he’s not going to be like the other people toward humans.
He giggles. “I’m sure, you’ll get along.” Then he offers to take my bag, to which I reject.
“You’re really serving a squad member on the first day?”
“I’m still your godfather, Kyvin,” He reasons.
“It’s okay,” I insist. “I’ll see you in your headquarters later.”
He raises his hands defensively. “Suit yourself.”
The directions are not so confusing to recognize as I lead myself to the dungeons where I can eat since it’s just near the hangar. Several soldiers are already present around the wooden tables, too busy munching on their meals and messily downing drinks while having indistinct discourses. I’m not really hungry, to begin with. But the sudden contraction of a pleasant smell makes my stomach take a whole turn. I spent an entire morning without a meal yet anyway.
There are not that many people in line near the counter, which I find convenient. So I walk my way there. But I’m only two steps so far, I flinch as a flash of something shiny streaks past my sight. I have to admit, my heart skipped a beat there. I turn my head to see where that object went and see it protruding through the wall. A dining knife.
“Watch out, Soldier,” A male voice echoes from behind. The mockery in his tone suggests how big his ego is.
I walk close to the wall to pull the sharp object off and turn myself to find the person I must return it to. I merely find myself facing a group sitting around a table. Three girls and two men, but it is obvious it’s the odd one out—the only Front Soldier among them, half-human and half-fawn who owns it with the way he continues to hysterically giggle in his seat, whilst the others around him are much enjoying it. From whence I stand, I take in his semblance with a dead look just so I can remember his face. Thick ginger hair, a thin scruff under his jaw, fair-sized horns slightly bent to the back of his head, olive skin, and a fair shape of nose and ears more likely relevant to an actual human than a satyr’s features.
In the blink of an eye, the knife is at the wall behind him. “I believe that’s yours,” I say.
He and the rest of the people around him make incredulous expressions. Now they’re given the impression that a mere human like me didn’t waste time back then in the academy.
I sense that the rest of the people’s attention is on me, all sharing the same look. The soldier then glares daggers at me that says so many things alone. Yet it gives no intimidation.
“Don’t drop it next time,” I add and that makes the soldier saunter towards me with his more human-like legs as he retains the same expression. He may be towering a few inches taller and had broader shoulders, yet it’s nothing compared to dealing with a Hellion.
As he is standing right before me, he eyes me down as if I’m nothing but a pest that he can easily crush on foot. I merely trade him the same guise showing that I’m nowhere near intimidated—even by what might happen next. Then the corners of his lips raised into a mischievous smirk.
“Never seen another human make a good knife throw,” He begins, still carrying the mocking look on his face.
“Should I be glad?” I say back.
He only shrugs. “Have I seen you here before? Or is it just that there aren’t so many soldiers like you here?”
That insult almost makes my eyebrow twitch, and my hand starts to grip tighter around the strap of my bag. “Maybe, you should have more human friends then,” I answer.
“Maybe you could use some of that.” He chuckles.
“Not really,” I mutter. “I don’t complain much about it.”
“Any more tricks you got in your pocket besides throwing a knife, then?”
“I can use a knife to make goat stew.” And by that moment, I already know how much I won when his eyes grow dark and his nostrils flare before yanking the collar of my suit. When I feel him clutch harder, that is when I grab his hand and shove my other hand onto his chest where he stumbles back.
“That’s one on my list,” I say, dropping my bag. “Wanna know more?”
Now, he’s in a rage and really wants to murder me at this point. He launches fists toward me, which I manage to evade. That’s what I just do, dodging again, and again, and again, not even bothering to hit back. I’m just making him look like an actual goat, chasing me with his horns. My only concern is nobody is even stopping him, not even his friends. In fact, they’re rather too entertained with the rest of the people, even the kitchen workers. I suddenly feel something under my foot that I initially thought would trip me. It’s just a utensil. That rather turns into a distraction, and it’s too late. I stumble back as I feel his fist crash onto my jaw, his knuckles almost cracking against the bones in my face.
I hear every single person in the dungeon gasp with mixed emotions. I run a finger on my cheekbone where I graze a drop of blood from a cut. I turn to face the faun soldier finally having a smug satisfaction on his face. That lets me give in to my anger and I finally return the favor. He blocks the first strike, thanks to his large arms, but I still succeed in landing an impactful one on his face after that, which knocks him to the ground. The scratch on his nose and the way his eyes squint in dizziness proves the impact I made. My knuckles were numb. It rather feels good.
My gaze travels around the crowd that had formed around me, the expressions they have carries no price, except for one soldier who is standing in between the way the others had made. It’s the High General.