Chapter 13

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LILY was exhausted.

Colonel Ulima had personally taken her around the training fields. She'd had Lily shoot an arrow—honestly, Lily had just barely missed the target—but had declared her abominable.

Then, Lily's skill with a blade was tested. This was a nonexistent skill in any case, but Colonel Ulima believed in not wasting time.

She also didn't believe in being kind or sparing people, so she had declared that Lily was as weak as a newborn foal and had kept her with a batch of the youngest soldiers to build her strength.

Lily had been doing exercises the whole afternoon—admittedly less than her fellow soldiers-in-training, but it was still more physical work than she'd ever done in her entire life.

A bright point was that the others in her batch were, at least, kind. They consisted of two girls and two boys, all younger than Lily. At first, they hadn't known what to make of her, but as the time had passed, they became more and more talkative.

They were all from Arianna's side of the settlement, a fact Lily couldn't help but notice. She didn't think it would be wise to ask about it, though.

"Lily, Colonel Ulima is calling you." Lily looked up from her horizontal position on the ground, where she was resting before the next set of exercises, to see one of her batch-mates, Iressa, pointing at the colonel.

"Thanks," she said, standing up and making her way over to the colonel, trying not to wobble. Colonel Ulima flicked an eye over her, seeming unimpressed, and Lily stood up straighter.

"Hmm. So, Lily, how are you holding up?" The question seemed kind, but Lily could hear the danger behind the words. Colonel Ulima waited for her answer, her eyes flashing.

"I'm a bit tired, but it's very. . . exciting." The moment the words were out of her mouth, Lily knew she had said the wrong thing, though she hadn't meant them at all.

"Exciting. Soldiers die for their kingdom and you call it exciting."

Lily opened her mouth to respond, sighing. Colonel Ulima seemed to think that since she had been a noble in Tsuchengko, she wasn't cut out for this life. That she couldn't handle it.

It was like she was only waiting for Lily to give up.

Lily pulled her shoulders back, "That's not what I meant. Your soldiers are very brave, and I'm honored to be a part of them."

Colonel Ulima pursed her lips, chewing them for a moment before saying, "Well then. Anyhow, you are dismissed, since I know you aren't used to this sort of work."

Lily schooled her face into a carefully neutral expression, "No, thank you. I'm not that tired. I'll stay and train with my batch."

Colonel Ulima grunted, and Lily could read the faint tinge of approval in her eyes before she turned away, heading somewhere else. Lily allowed a small smile to cross her face before joining her batch. A small victory.

Later, after Lily had watched her batch-mates train with weapons while not being allowed to herself, due to her lack of basic knowledge with a blade—they were allowed to go home.

She kept her head high until she was out of sight of Colonel Ulima. After that she literally dragged herself to Arianna's house. She knocked on the door, leaning on the wall beside it as she heard Arianna coming.

"Lily!" Arianna said, opening the door wide, "How was your day?"

"Tiring," Lily answered, stumbling inside. She collapsed onto a chair as Arianna shut the door and sat in front of her. Lily glared, seeing her amused look, "Don't look so smug."

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