We've finally made it...
Lots of information this chapter. Hopefully it's all useful. There's some new stuff that wasn't around in the OPF version, too. Can you spot it?
Enjoy the chapter, and... welcome to the Kingsguard!
Chapter 11: Welcome to the Kingsguard
Date: ??? Time: Sunrise. A white pickup truck drives down an empty road.
A sleepy teenage boy in the front passenger seat grumbled. “Hey… why do we have to drive? The train is so much quicker.”
The driver, a young white-haired woman with a gentle face laughed. “Ha ha. That’s true, it is.”
“Yeah, so… why couldn’t we? There’s free coffee on the train as well.” The boy grumbled.
The woman pouted. “What’s wrong with the coffee I made for you, huh?”
“It’s got too much milk, and it’s not strong enough. You should have let me make it.”
“Well you were still in bed when we were supposed to leave,” the woman replied matter-of-factly. “You don’t get to complain.”
The boy sighed. As the pickup truck exited the city and joined the highway, the boy looked out of the window. The view of the city centre in all its glory was oddly majestic: A city that had endured year after year of brutal attacks, that was somehow still standing. Even in his half-asleep state, the boy couldn’t help but be impressed. As he watched the city pass, the woman in the driver’s seat spoke.
“See that, Marko? You don’t get that on the train.”
January 2nd, 2253. 9. A black sedan makes its way down the highway.
“I really appreciate you coming to pick me up and everything, but… I could have taken the train.” Chirch said, shuffling nervously in the front passenger seat.
“True.” Marko replied.
“So, uh… why did you come and get me?” Chirch asked.
“Oh. Maybe I should have let you take all that stuff on the train.” Marko replied, gesturing towards the piles of belongings on the back seats of the car.
“Besides…. you’ve never been to the capital before.”
As Marko spoke, Chirch could see the city of Adamine approaching on the horizon. Even though she’d seen pictures of it, seeing it in person was an entirely different experience. On first impression, it was easy to forget that it was a city ravaged by war for the past two decades. A monorail system circled the city’s perimeter, and buildings far higher than any she’d seen in Kingston dominated the skyline. To the sides of the central district, she could see built up areas all around. As they approached the city centre, Chirch could feel herself getting excited to see the city up close. After going through a small underpass, they entered the central district. For Chirch, who had grown up out in the middle of nowhere, it was almost too much to take in at once. Billboards littered with advert after advert. Sports teams, new films, even billboards for Dreamcorp’s new smartphone. It was like she was living in a commercial break. Cafes and shops were already open, and the streets were already somewhat busy, despite it being so early in the morning. People of all ages, backgrounds and identities were living here, keeping the city alive 24 hours a day. Now she’d seen it up close, Chirch understood why Adamine was considered a modern utopia.
“You’ll get used to it.” Marko said, as the car stopped at a set of traffic lights.
“Huh?” Chirch replied, almost jumping as Marko spoke.
“The city.” Marko answered. “It feels really big at first, but it’s easy to get around.”
As Chirch looked out of the window, she noticed some familiar faces on an advertising board for cologne.
“Hey, Captain Marko. Aren’t those two models Kingsguard soldiers?” she asked, confused.
“Yeah. The guy is Kyros, the head of the Soldier Division. You’ll meet him today. The girl is Amanda. She’s the most popular Kingsguard member.” Marko explained.
“She’s pretty…” Chirch said, keeping her eyes on the billboard until it was no longer visible.
“Kingsguard members get asked to do brand deals now and then, and I’m sure you’ve seen them in commercials.” Marko explained. “But in the capital, where the most famous athletes, singers and actors live, the celebrities people want pictures with are Kingsguard members.”
Hearing this made Chirch somewhat nervous. She was confident in her fighting ability, but not so much in her ability to socialise with strangers. Would she have to do PR? Would she even be able to pose in front of a camera without getting tense? She’d only downloaded Dreamstagram over the holidays to keep in touch with Rose and the others…
“Are you on any billboards around town?” Chirch asked.
“No.” Marko answered. “I hate doing publicity stuff.”
“Oh.” Hearing this relieved Chirch somewhat. The pair then drove in silence for a few minutes, save for the songs playing through the car stereo. As they exited the central district and headed for Kingsguard HQ, Marko broke the silence.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
“Huh?” Chirch replied nervously.
“Why do you want to be a soldier?” Marko asked.
Chirch thought for a while, scrambling for a good answer to the question.
“You don’t have to answer now.” Marko added. “Just think about it.”
10. Kingsguard HQ – Residences.
As Chirch hauled the last of her things from the elevator, down the hallway to the outside of her apartment door, she sighed loudly. She thought Marko was going to help her; instead, he just helped her get her key from the front desk downstairs and then left. Apparently, he had to “help plan for the welcome tour.” What was the point in having the Kingsguard’s strongest soldier as a mentor if he couldn’t even help her move a few lousy boxes? As she got ready to unlock the door to her new place for the first time, the door across the hall from her opened.
“Chirch! You’re finally here.”
Seeing who came out of the apartment across the hall, Chirch’s eyes lit up. “Oh! Rose!”
“Looks like we’re neighbours now.” Rose grinned, giving her friend a hug. As Rose looked at the big pile of boxes in front of Chirch’s door, she sighed.
“Man… you really have a lot of stuff, huh.”
“Let me help.” Rose offered.
Chirch breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “Please do.”
As Chirch moved her belongings into her new home with Rose’s help, the girls caught up, talking about their respective holidays.
12. Kingsguard HQ – The Owl King’s Village. The new recruits are waiting for their tours to begin.
Chirch and Rose joined up with the other new soldiers, waiting for their tour guides to arrive. As Chirch looked around for familiar faces, she saw Eve and Judge with the engineers, XO with the medics, and in her own group, she saw Zak Niklaus having a conversation with a tall, dark-skinned boy.
“Huh. I always thought Zak would be more of a lone wolf.” Chirch commented. “But it looks like he’s made a new friend.”
“Wait. Do you not know who that is?” Rose asked, shocked.
“Should I?” Chirch replied, tilting her head.
“You remember the power rankings at the Academy, right?”
“I can’t believe I was only twelfth.” Chirch grumbled.
“For a first year, that’s almost unheard of.” Rose replied. “Anyway, that’s besides the point. Do you remember who the top 3 soldiers were last year?”
“Yup. Zak number 1, you number 2, Tsubaki number 3.” Chirch answered.
“The top 3 soldiers in any graduating class get their names put up on a board back at the Soldier Academy.” Rose explained. “And since Tsubaki didn’t graduate, the person who finished fourth took her spot. A fourth year, KC Robbins. That’s who Zak’s talking to.”
“I didn’t think Zak would be the kind of guy to be interested in someone weaker than him.” Chirch joked.
“KC isn’t weak.” Rose replied, her tone serious. “In fact, he was in the top 3 right up until the end of my second year, when he got injured.”
“Wait. Didn’t Zak get injured then as well?”
“Two top 3 prospects getting injured at the same time. What do you think happened?” Rose asked.
“They fought.” Chirch answered.
“Zak’s fight record back at the Academy was perfect, except for one draw. That was a fight he had with KC during summer break two years ago. They both hurt themselves pretty badly, and missed recruitment week because of it. After that fight, KC cut back on sparring. He missed his rookie showcase and a chance at early recruitment because he’d hurt himself, and he didn’t want to risk another injury right before joining the Kingsguard. With half as many registered spars as any other Academy student, he still came fourth overall in the power rankings.”
“He’s kinda strong then, huh…” Chirch commented.
“Zak is still stronger, but KC is the only person who truly pushed him back at the Academy.”
“Besides you, of course.” Chirch added.
“Heh. Thanks.” Rose replied.
After a few more minutes of conversation, the members of the Kingsguard Elite arrived. Whilst the girls were familiar with Marko, they were somewhat taken aback by the man next to him. In contrast to Marko’s lean frame and below average height, the soldier next to him was somewhat of a behemoth; his flowing, brown hair, rugged beard and bulky frame made him look like a tan Viking. Following behind was Grinnington, and a slim man with Far Eastern features, who the girls deduced was the head of the Medical Department. As the Elite arrived, a silence quickly fell over the new recruits. The tall Viking then called everyone to attention.
“New recruits. First of all, welcome to the Kingsguard. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Commander Kyros Fidelis, and I’m the head of the Soldier Division. With me are Captain Marko de Polaris, Commander Arthur Grinnington, the head of the Engineering and Machina Department, and Dr. Ryu Seiko, the lead clinician at the Kingsguard Infirmary. Captain de Polaris and I will lead the tour for the new soldiers, Commander Grinnington will look after the engineers, and Dr. Seiko the medics. Before we set off, let me introduce you to this area. This is the Owl King’s Village, and is “home” for all members of the Kingsguard. In case you don’t want to go all the way into the city to shop, eat or go out with friends, you can do it all here. There are bars, convenience stores, cafes and restaurants, a gym, a library, a small park, a weaponsmith, and even a Kingsguard clothing store in the Village, all built on request of the 49th Owl King. More so than the places you’ll eventually start working, this is the most important place in Kingsguard HQ, and a place you’ll probably spend a lot of time over the coming years. Make sure you get a good look around over the next few days. Oh, and early recruits. The drinking age in Hiraeth is 18: don’t expect to get served at our bars.”
Chirch and Rose looked at each otherand giggled quietly.
“Now, we’ll split off into groups. Enjoy the tours!”
12. Kingsguard HQ – Soldier Training Facility – Ground Floor Foyer
Chirch and Rose admired the training facility as they entered. Behind a large glass window, they could see soldiers training in the gym.
“This is the place you’ll be spending most of your training time.” Kyros explained. “Think of it like the training spaces you had at the Academy, but bigger and better. We have weighted training gear, both armour and weapons, that range from a few kilograms of extra weight, right up to two-tonne armour. There’s a shooting range outside, a 24-hour gym that you can see just behind me, and we also have a gravity chamber under development. What’s different from the Academy, however, is what’s downstairs. We have a full spa available exclusively to soldiers, with massage therapists, acupuncturists, ice baths and steam rooms. If you’ve pushed yourself too hard, make sure to use the spa services to relax your muscles and help them recover. And remember: the most important part of being a Kingsguard soldier is your condition.”
The group then visited all the areas of the training facility, and watched intently whenever they could see a soldier training in one of the training rooms.
Kingsguard HQ – Engineering and Machina Department.
As Eve and Judge stepped into what felt like a massive garage, they looked up to see full-length windows on the walls above them. Behind the windows, they could see engineers hard at work.
Grinnington loudly cleared his throat, getting the attention of his group. “Now then. Just like it was at the Academy, the engineers and pilots occupy the same space, and often work closely with each other. The lower floor, as you can see, is dedicated exclusively to machina maintenance. There’s a combat training area just outside, where you pilots can hone your battle skills, either against each other, or against the automated machina we have ready and waiting in the storage areas outside. Now, as we go upstairs, you’ll see all the research & development areas, including labs, private workspaces, and a dedicated engineering library, complete with café, open 24 hours a day! A paradise for all parties! Oh ho ho!”
Kingsguard HQ – Infirmary. Reception
As XO stepped into the infirmary, the familiar smell of disinfectant greeted him. Even though it was his first time here, it felt like home. As he looked around, Dr. Seiko pointed at the level directory located next to the elevators.
“It’s very straightforward here, really. Accident & Emergency takes up floors 1 and 2. Recovery is on Level 3 along with the Pharmacy, and Physiotherapy and the Eye Department are on Level 4. Floor 5 is for admin and patient records. The Mental Health Unit is next door, and can be accessed via the western walkway, and the medical research department can be accessed via the eastern walkway. They’ve also got main entrances outside. Oh, and if you’re interested… The pathology department is in the basement.”
A few laughs greeted Dr. Seiko’s “joke” – who really wanted to be a pathologist?
“We have a small library on Level 4, and the cafeteria is on Level 3. We’ll look around all the departments shortly, and I’ll show you the theatres. We’ve also got a mock medical tent set up outside, so any of you joining the front-line medical unit should join Dr. Deva in there once this part of the tour is done.”
1. Kingsguard HQ – Deployment Zone
Almost like clockwork, all the tour groups entered the deployment area at the same time, rejoining for the final part of the tour.
“This is the area you’ll need to come to before battle.” Kyros explained. “Soldiers, combat medics and pilots have all been assigned a locker, which contains your battle armour. When you get called to battle, make sure to head straight to your locker and get suited up for battle. Once the battle’s done, leave your armour in the laundry pile, and we’ll get it cleaned. Remember: armour is not machine washable. Engineers, you’ll be responsible for doing safety checks on all machina and standard-issue weapons. Those of you who have your own weapon are responsible for its maintenance. As soon as a whole squad is ready with checks completed, you are safe to deploy. Squad cars will be waiting outdoors for soldiers. None of you have been assigned to a squad yet, but the squad leaders will be getting together over the next couple of days to make that decision.”
His explanation duties done, Kyros then directed the group down the hall.
“Now, this final spot on the tour is a very special place for all Kingsguard soldiers. It’s usually only open after battles, but it’s tradition for us to open it on two other occasions. The first is on military draft induction day, and the other is on the Academy’s induction day.”
Kyros, closely followed by Dr. Seiko, snuck through a set of double doors. A murmur could be heard behind them, but it was quickly shushed. Marko and Grinnington each stood in front of a door, pushing it open with one hand. As the doors opened, the new recruits could see all the current members of the Kingsguard standing at a table. Kyros, who was front and centre, greeted them with open arms and a wide grin.
“Welcome to the Mess Hall!”
The Kingsguard soldiers behind him all cheered loudly.
“Please, go help yourself to food! It’s all-you-can-eat!”
Hearing the words “all-you-can-eat” excited Chirch, who darted straight for the front of the line.
1. Kingsguard HQ – Mess Hall. Chirch, Rose, Judge, Eve and XO are sitting on a table together.
“Man! That was so good.” Chirch said, a wide grin on her face. “I feel like I could fight a whole army after that.”
“Isn’t this supposed to be eaten after a fight?” Eve replied.
“Oh, yeah… well then I could probably celebrate for a whole weekend after eating this!” Chirch said, adapting her excitement appropriately.
“I noticed it after the final exam, but I’m still shocked at how much you eat.” Judge joked. “You eat like a fat old geezer.”
“They wish they could eat like Chirch.” XO joked.
“Hey, Rose. Are you gonna finish that piece of cake?” Chirch asked.
“You still have room for more?” Rose replied, almost disgusted at the seemingly bottomless nature of Chirch’s stomach.
“Can’t waste it. It’s all good food.” Chirch answered.
“Go ahead.” Rose sighed.
As Chirch helped herself to Rose’s leftovers, two Kingsguard members approached Eve and XO.
“Hey there, old friends.”
“Oh! Pragma! Kai!” Eve said excitedly. She stood up and hugged them both.
“Long time no see.” Pragma said, smiling.
“As if you didn’t come find us straight away.” XO said teasingly. “Didn’t want to be caught hanging out with the rookies?”
“Didn’t want to be caught hanging with you specifically.” Kai joked.
Pragma and Kai pulled up seats, eager to catch up with their old friends.
“So. Whaddaya think of HQ?” Pragma asked eagerly.
“It’s even more impressive in person.” Eve answered. “We only had a quick look around the labs, but they’ve got everything you could dream of, and more.”
“I’m gonna need you to help me with machina upgrades, Jackson.” Kai added, an impish grin on his face.
“I’m not doing your engineering projects for you again, Kai.” Eve grumbled.
“Hey, XO. The real question. You seen any girls you like around here yet?” Pragma asked teasingly.
“I haven’t really been paying attention.” XO replied nonchalantly.
“Ahh! That’s right. You and Tsubaki…”
As much as he tried to resist it, XO could feel his cheeks turn red.
“You haven’t seen Amanda yet, have you?” Pragma said.
“I mean, she’s on at least a dozen billboards in town…” XO replied.
With the word “Amanda” grabbing his attention, Kai turned to the boys. “X, seriously. The billboards do NOT do her justice. In person, she’s…”
Pragma nodded knowingly. “Yeah.”
“And I get to see her at work every day.” Kai said, almost singing with joy. “What a time to be alive…”
As old friends caught up, Rose was approached by a familiar face on the other side of the table.
“Shiira Em Rose.”
Rose turned around to see Zak standing behind her.
“I hear Captain Marko is going to be training you.” Zak said.
“We start later today.” Rose replied.
Zak smirked. “Heh. Let’s see if that extra teaching pays off next time we spar.”
Rose, slightly irked, felt as if she could go right now. “Oh, I’m sure it will.”
“I’ll be training twice as hard from now on.” Niklaus replied. “And once I beat you again, the Captain’s next…”
“Are you sure you can handle that?” Judge interjected. Having been silent this whole time, listening in to the conversations, he felt like getting a word in. “You blew your shot pretty fast last time.”
“Maybe so.” Niklaus replied, seemingly unbothered by Judge’s low blow. “But now, at least I know what I’m up against.”
“A Niklaus biting off more than they can chew. Wouldn’t be the first time." Judge replied.
“What do you know about-”
“Oi.” Niklaus and Judge’s impending argument was interrupted by yet another visitor to the new kids’ table. “Chirch, Rose.”
Chirch and Rose turned to see Captain Marko, who had just walked up to their table.
“Oh, Captain Marko! Hi!” Chirch said cheerfully. “This food’s real good, huh?”
The entire table was stunned into silence. Of all people, Chirch, who was normally shy around people, was talking to the Kingsguard’s scariest soldier so casually?
Marko paused for a second. “Yeah. Anyway. Training starts tonight at 6. Room 210, don’t be late. Oh, and Chirch… what are you doing after this?”
“Uh… nothing really.” Chirch replied.
“Okay. I noticed you don’t have your own weapon, so I had one ordered. Let me know when you’re done eating, and we’ll go test it out.”
“Oh, uhh… okay.” Chirch was surprised by this; she would have been fine using the standard-issue weapons. “Actually, I can come in…”
“My, my, Maaaaarko. Isn’t she a little too young for you?”
The table was once again stunned into silence. This time, however, the cheeks of all the new graduates, save for Judge, who somehow managed to keep his cool, turned crimson. A young woman with copper-coloured hair placed her arm around the Captain. The group all gulped as they couldn’t help but notice her chest pressing against Marko’s arm.
“THAT’S Amanda.” Pragma whispered to XO.
Marko, feeling his blood pressure rising out of pure annoyance, took a deep breath. “Amanda, these are-”
“Your students, right?” Amanda replied, putting on a sickeningly innocent face. “Or at least, those two cuties are,” she said, looking at Chirch and Rose. “And, let me guess… the blonde kid is the next Dr. von Belgien, and the red-haired boy and the girl with the metal arm are Grinnington’s new playthings. And the one standing over there is… the fast one, right?”
Even though they’d never met her before, all of the new recruits at the table were overjoyed that Amanda recognised them.
“You know, Mr. Speedy… Zaklaus, is it?” Amanda asked.
“Zak.” Niklaus replied, feeling uncharacteristically nervous.
“Zak, sorry. The Captain over here is bad with names.” she said, pinching Marko’s cheek. “Zak. A word of advice. You don’t have to be speedy all the time. Girls like a man who can pace themselves…”
“That’s enough.” Marko replied bluntly.
“Oh? It’s not like you have a problem with-”
Marko quickly put his hand over Amanda’s mouth. “Chirch, let me know when you’re free.” Leading Amanda away from the table before she could do any more damage, she waved back at Kai.
“See you later, Kai!”
As the excitement from all the visitors calmed down, Pragma spoke up.
“I hate you, Kai.”
2. Kingsguard HQ – Dartmon’s Weapon Shop.
“Oh, Captain! Perfect timing. Your new weapon has just finished cooling.” Dartmon, the sole smith at the Kingsguard HQ’s weapon shop said, greeting Marko as he and Chirch entered the shop.
“Hey, Dartmon. This is Chirch.” Marko said.
“Hi…” Chirch said sheepishly.
“Ah, g’day Chirch. I’m guessing this here was custom made for you.” Dartmon replied, grinning.
“I guess… it’s kind of a surprise to me, though.”
Dartmon laughed. “Well, let’s hope it’s a good one. The standard issue weapons are great and all, but they don’t have personality. And after seeing your battle tapes… you definitely need a weapon with personality.”
Chirch stayed quiet. Was that meant to be a good thing?
“Come, let’s go to the back room.” Dartmon said, inviting Chirch and Marko to the back room. Opening the door at the back of his shop, Chirch saw a lot of very fancy-looking machines, and a large, open space. As they entered, Dartmon walked over to get Chirch’s new sword. Handing it to her, Chirch admired it, swinging it a few times as Dartmon explained the concept behing her new weapon.
“One thing the Captain and I noticed when we were watching your fights is that you like to throw your sword. You’ve got pretty good aim, too. The problem with throwing your sword, though, is that you have to go and pull it out of the thing you throw it at, right?”
“Yeah… I should probably stop doing that.” Chirch replied.
“Ah. But to do that would be taking away one of your most unique skills as a fighter. Have you ever thrown a boomerang before?”
Chirch shook her head. “Nope.”
“Well. Some boomerangs are designed in a way that when you throw it, it circles back to the user. Usually they achieve this through having a certain shape, but we’ve managed to work out another way to do it. I want you to try throwing the sword at that suit of armour over there. Aim to hit it on the right hand side.”
After taking a moment to judge the distance, Chirch threw the sword at the suit of armour. Naturally, it cut through the right hand side, but to Chirch’s surprise, it kept moving, slicing all the way through the armour before returning to a very startled Chirch, who barely reacted in time to catch the sword by its handle.
Dartmon grinned. “Pretty good, ay?”
Chirch couldn’t take her eyes off the sword. “Yeah…”
“So? Think you can use this in battle?” Dartmon asked. “That’s the most important part of any weapon.”
Chirch nodded. “I might need some practice, though.”
“Great. It’s all yours, then.”
“How do you get it to fly back?” Chirch asked curiously.
Dartmon grinned. “That’s my secret.”
Chirch, new weapon in hand, got ready to leave the store with Marko. As she was about to leave, Dartmon called out to her one last time.
“Oh, Chirch. You’re pretty good with a bow and arrow too, right? If you ever want one custom made, give me a call. I’ll give you a good discount.”
“Thank you!” Chirch replied cheerfully. As Chirch and Marko left the store, Chirch turned to the Captain.
“Hey, Captain Marko… Not that I don’t appreciate this, but… how come you had a weapon made for me?”
“It’s easier for you to develop your own style if you have a weapon that’s suited for you.” Marko answered bluntly.
“Oh, that makes sense.” Chirch replied. “But… how come you didn’t have one made for Rose?”
“She already has her own sword” Marko answered.
“Anyway. I’ve got paperwork to do. See you at training.”
As Marko walked off, Chirch decided to head back to her apartment. The big lunch and the early start had made her sleepy; it was time for a nap. As she headed back, she continued to admire her new sword, and the fancy sheath Dartmon had made for it.
January 2nd, 2253. 5. Kingsguard HQ – Chirch’s Apartment.
Chirch woke up on her couch to the sound of her phone ringing. Who could be calling? After picking it up, she saw Rose calling, and the time.
“Ah! I’m gonna be late!”
Commander Kyros Fidelis (named after ex-OPF mod Kyros ) : Soldier, husband, tour guide extraordinaire
Twelve as Amanda: Popular with boys, girls, and everyone in between.
Dartmon: Even cheerier than usual thanks to the paycheck he received from Marko