Chapter 22

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LILY was, instead of sleeping at late night, like she was used to, in the training fields with the other spies-in-training, including Venix and Edra Karnem.

Why? Because as part of their spy training, they were required to spend the whole night awake, on watch, on the forest floor. The reason being that should they ever be in such a dire situation, they would be prepared. It was very thoughtful of Bruto.

Lily was sitting, leaning on a tree, with Venix and Gorno in front of her, and a slightly older woman named Talin, who she'd soon made friends with. Talin had been training as a spy for quite some time, and she was married.

"I'm already sleepy," Venix yawned—then straightened his back as though someone had shoved a spear up it when Bruto gave him a dark look.

Lily pressed her lips together to keep from laughing, while Talin and Gorno didn't have any such restraint. Venix gave them all a glare, "You'll be complaining too, later."

Talin raised an eyebrow, "No, I won't. It's not my first time doing this." Venix snorted, grumbling under his breath, and Lily grinned.

She wasn't that tired yet, but she knew she would be as the night progressed. It would certainly be her first time trying to stay awake until sunrise, and she wasn't looking forward to it.

Still, it helped that the Colonel was present as well, for some reason, and her glare occasionally fell on Lily's group.

Thankfully, the moon was bright that night, and she could see the others. If it was as dark as it sometimes got, she would've fallen asleep, without a doubt.

But it was cold, so cold that Lily's nose burned, and inhaling was close to painful. But the cold helped to keep her awake—she wouldn't be able to sleep with her fingers and toes freezing.

For a while, all was silent, with only the biting wind howling through the blurry leaves and branches. Lily had begun yawning so hard moisture came to her eyes, and she wasn't the only one.

Stay awake stay awake stay awake.

It became harder, especially since they weren't supposed to talk, though they snuck in whispers when neither Bruto nor the Colonel was looking. And, of course, they weren't allowed to build a fire.

"So—cold—" Gorno whimpered.

"Oh, stuff a leaf in it," Talin snapped. Despite this not being her first time braving the cold night, she was beginning to show signs of strain.

"No need to be such a stinging nettle, oh Talin the Experienced," Venix said, with a remarkably smug look despite his shivering fingers. Lily barely restrained a snort. Talin gave him a look darker than the night sky above, but Venix only grinned audaciously.

Lily rubbed her hands together and breathed into them, curling her knees up to her chest. She glanced above, hoping against hope to see the moon falling to dim, rosy light – but of course she was disappointed.

"Stop complaining!"

Lily jerked violently, her eyes flying to where the Colonel and Bruto sat, glaring around the field. The Colonel continued, "If you can't handle just this, how do you expect to become good spies, spies who have to endure much more for their kingdoms?"

Across the field, Lily saw Edra's spine go rigid.

A blanket of sheepishness covered the field, and Lily glanced at Gorno, who was looking down. The Colonel was right, they shouldn't have complained. Not when people out there were surely suffering worse due to the Gongjensu, not when they'd have to do this and more if they survived training.

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