Regharos city\'s region Boot Camp
The Cadet\'s graduation ceremony was an event celebrated not only by the new members of the Griffon Kingdom\'s army, but also by their commanding officers.
Finding diamonds in the rough and helping promising recruits to overcome their limitations was one of the most common ways for a Drill Sergeant to rack up merits.
The success or failure of their Cadets could change their careers.
Trion Proudstar was still recovering from his clash with Phloria Ernas.
She had kept her word.
Neither she nor her family had made a move against him, but the army wasn\'t as forgiving.
Phloria was considered one of the most outstanding young officers.
She had yet to fail an important mission and most of the soldiers she trained had become members of elite units.
Back when she was still a Cadet, Trion had done everything he could to make her flunk.
Now that their roles were reversed, every success Phloria achieved made him the object of harsh reprimands and contemptuous looks.
To his superiors, Trion had failed to recognize her value.
The more she rose in the ranks, the bigger the stain on his personal file became.
Trion\'s only source of relief was the camaraderie from his fellow Sergeants.
They knew about his brother and understood his grief.
Most of them came from messed up families and each had their own burden.
Making a stupid mistake wasn\'t an issue.
As long as Trion was willing to learn from it, he would have their full support.
The end of the semester also meant that they could finally relax and enjoy a slow meal.
The mess hall was filled with voices telling the most ridiculous anecdotes about their own Cadets.
Spring recruits were considered the worst batch, since it usually consisted of nobles or lazy youths that had no idea what to do with their lives.
This Cadet I had, Revkin, he was really a piece of work. Trion was bantering about his latest success.
Rough and undisciplined, but a real soldier to the core.
The harder you taught him the faster he learned…
He was about to tell his friends about how he had recommended Revkin for the rank of Lance Corporal, when an eerie feeling crawled up his skin.
It was almost the end of the summer, so the climate was still hot, yet Trion felt a knot in his stomach.
It was a sensation he had never forgotten, like the cold drafts that plagued his room during winter when he was still a kid.
Why suddenly so silent Asked Beligros, one of Trion\'s closest friends when he saw him anxiously look at the Mess Hall\'s entrance.
The answer walked through the door just a few seconds later, donning the deep green of the Rangers and the rank of First Lieutenant on his sleeves.
By the Great Mother. More than one voice said while he passed in front of their tables.
Most Drill Sergeants checked Lith out, envying whoever had been lucky enough to be his commanding officer.
Everything about how he moved and wore the uniform told them he had just graduated.
Cooking up an officer right off a Cadet was usually a career-maker event.
Some of the female Sergeants checked him out for less noble reasons.
It had taken Lith quite an effort to find Trion in the myriad of Boot Camps across the whole Griffon Kingdom.
To get access to the right one without an official reason had cost him owing some favors.
There wasn\'t much his connections could do.
Lith\'s influence outside the Distar Marquisate was almost none, yet it was a price he was happy to pay for his mother\'s sake.
He had never realized how much suffering Trion\'s absence had caused Elina, otherwise he would have hunted his brother down years ago.
Sergeants. Lith said as he gave them a salute after reaching Trion\'s table.
It was unusual for an officer to salute NCOs first, but being freshly promoted Lith was paying them the respect their rank and seniority deserved.
All of Trion friends were pleasantly impressed by the courtesy the giant was showing them, so they stood up and returned the salute.
All but Trion.
His knees felt weak as the knot in his stomach was quickly moving up to his throat.
The scene in front of him was right out of his worst nightmare.
What are you doing here Trion asked using sheer willpower to look into Lith\'s eyes as he braced for the impact.
We need to talk. Lith\'s gaze wasn\'t angry nor menacing.
His tone was flat, like he was just asking for directions in an unknown city.
What are you doing, man Beligros whispered while trying to pull Trion up.
He may be as green inside as he is outside, but he\'s still a superior officer and yours is a clear act of insubordination.
Trion wanted to reply, but his jaw was clenched so hard he couldn\'t speak.
Then, the nightmare became reality.
No need for formalities, Sergeant Beligros.
After all, Trion and I are brothers. The whole Mess Hall stood up at those words, while Beligros turned pale knowing his disrespectful words had been heard.
\'Dammit, I was just trying to make Trion move.
Hope this guy doesn\'t hold a grudge\' He thought.
What do you want Trion replied with a hoarse voice.
Whatever it was, he wanted for it to end quickly.
He could almost hear the thoughts of all his peers, making cruel comparisons between the two brothers.
Lith was the tallest man in the room with his 1.83 (6\') while Trion barely reached the average height of 1.65 (5\'5).
To make things worse, he wasn\'t a scrawny kid anymore.
Lith had the build one would expect from a veteran of an elite unit, not from a recruit.
Also, both his rank straight after the graduation and him being part of the Rangers were big tells for all those present.
They meant he was a mage.
Otherwise no matter how talented a Cadet was, being promoted above the rank of Corporal right after a Boot Camp was impossible.
It\'s about our mother.
She still worries about you.
Do you mind telling me why in two years and a half you never bothered returning home or at least writing a letter The room fell silent.
Lith was different from how Trion had pictured him.
Trion had always told them that his family had abandoned him, so hearing about a worried mother was mind-blowing news.
Do you really want me to believe that she cares for me After ignoring me for years, giving all her love and attention to her little, perfect son Trion\'s words oozed poison.
Look, I know we never went along. Lith sighed, yet his brother\'s accusations left him unfazed.
He didn\'t care for Trion\'s grievances.
For all those years, he had believed him dead.
\'What sort of world is it where you can\'t even trust assassins During the plague, they threatened me to kill him unless I surrendered, yet here we are.\'
Neither of us deserves a mother like Elina and you know it.
Don\'t let your feelings towards me cloud your judgment.
She deserves better.