The main benefit of me re-booting this series is that I can fix a lot of the things that were missing from the story the first time around, mainly due to the old character submission format. I didn't get the character sheet for Rose, the girl introduced in this chapter, until after Chapter 3 of the original series, meaning there was a lot of meandering while I waited for that perfect character to show up. Luckily, I have her from the beginning this time, meaning I can bring her straight into the story.
Also, our main character has a backstory now. Ain't that cool?
Anyway, enjoy this, the second chapter of the new and improved Kingsguard!
Chapter 2: Shiira Em Rose
Eight years ago. Chirch’s childhood home. Chirch is helping her grandmother clean out the garden shed.
“Hey, Grandma. What’s in this bag?” Chirch asked, pulling out a long, dusty duffle bag.
“That? I can’t remember. Why not take a look?”
Opening the bag, Chirch pulled out a hunting bow. Taking a long look to inspect it, she rooted around in the bag, and pulled out a handful of arrows.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve seen that,” Chirch’s grandmother commented. “That bow was your grandfather’s.”
“Can I play with it?” Chirch asked.
Her grandmother laughed. “It might be a bit big for you still. Besides, that thing’s not a toy.”
Chirch pulled at the bow string. “Oh! It’s just like the one that girl on TV had!”
“You’re not listening to me, are you Chirch.”
Chirch picked up an arrow and readied her weapon as if she were about to fire it.
“Not in the shed!” her grandmother shouted. “Fine… I’ll let you take one shot with it. Outside though, please.”
Chirch giggled and ran outside with the bow and arrow. Pointing to an apple tree roughly 20 feet away, she proudly announced her target. “I’m going to hit that big red apple.”
Her grandmother, following slowly behind, stood and watched as Chirch took fire. Her eyes widened with surprise as the arrow fired by her six-year old granddaughter landed dead centre of the apple she had identified as her target. Before she could say anything, Chirch was already right in front of her, eyes wide with excitement.
“Look! I did it!”
Her grandmother smiled gently down at her. “Well done.”
“Can I play some more?”
“I’ll tell you what. If you can knock down all the apples at the top of the tree for me, I’ll let you play as much as you want.”
Chirch ran excitedly off to the garden shed to fetch more arrows. Looking up at the pierced apple, her grandmother could only shake her head and sigh.
“Just like her grandfather.”
January 18th, 2252. 1. Kingsguard Soldier Academy – Classroom.
Chirch snuck into the back of the classroom, and took a seat on the back row, nearest to the window. After a morning of uninteresting classes like maths and history, it was finally time for her first soldier-related class. As she waited for the lesson to start, she surveyed the classroom. Even though it was still the first day, it seemed like the cliques had already started, with groups of guys and girls congregating around desks.
“Hey, Bell! Do you wanna come to West dorms and watch Teen Vampire with us?”
“Oi, Onato. Wanna come to West dorms and check out my Commander Kyros figurine? It’s the new edition one!”
The lively buzz in the classroom was quickly killed as a stern-looking teacher walked in, slamming his books on the desk at the front of the classroom.
“To your seats, please.”
Sensing this teacher was not one to be messed with, the students filed quickly and quietly to their seats as the teacher readied his slideshow for the day’s lesson. As he began to speak in longer sentences, Chirch noticed he had a thick Highland accent.
“Now, my name is Professor Braveheart. I am the head of the Soldier Course here at the Kingsguard Academy, and I served as Third Division Captain in the Kingsguard for 12 years. I will be your head coach for this first semester class, Soldier 101. Now, most of our classes will take place outside or in the training facility, but as it is your first day I will be giving you a quick introduction to the enemy you may one day fight, and some important tips for when you eventually get into bot practice drills.”
Chirch opened her notepad and readied herself to take notes as Professor Braveheart began his lecture.
“Enemy bots come in three major classes. The first class is the “soldier class”. These are roughly six feet tall, and are almost identical in design, taking on a more humanoid appearance. They come in two sub-classes – trooper and gunner, the difference being the weapons they use. The second class are what we refer to as “machina class”. These bots, whilst still retaining a humanoid structure, are much larger, ranging from three to seven metres in height. Their appearances vary based on their size and weapon type, but once again they’re mostly very similar looking. Most ground soldiers don’t fight the machina class bots directly, leaving them to the sniper divisions or the machina pilots. However, some of the Kingsguard’s strongest ground soldiers, such as members of the Elite and high-ranking Captains are able to defeat them.”
A student raised his hand and blurted out a question.
“Professor! Does that mean you could beat one of the big ones if you were a Captain?”
Professor Braveheart shrugged. “I honestly cannae tell you. I served very early on in the war. In my day, I could, but I don’t know if I could against one of today’s models.”
“Why not? Is it because you’re old now?”
“No. It’s because the bots of today are stronger than the ones I fought during my time. Anyway. The third class of bot, though much rarer now than before, are the rogue class. These are often domestic androids whose software glitches, causing them to attack. Improved software development and a general reduction in the number of home androids have made this class very uncommon, but it’s an important one to know about.”
Another student raised their hand with a question. “What about FlameBot, Professor?”
“If I had to classify it, I’d say it’s a machina class, but… its size and abilities are completely unheard of. It’s a first, seeing a bot like that.”
“Will we have to fight an army of FlameBots?”
The class quickly devolved into mayhem as the FlameBot incident was brought up, with students asking a range of questions that the Professor couldn’t answer. Sensing time was of the essence, he brought his class back to attention.
“Now, your first semester classes will be based around developing basic swordsmanship to fight soldier class bots. With that in mind, take a look at this diagram of the anatomy of a soldier-class.”
The diagram showed a picture of a soldier-class bot, both front and back view, with various body parts highlighted in red.
“The general weak spots of a soldier class are its joints; neck, shoulders and so on. The most effective method of defeating a soldier-class is to go for the neck – much like a human, they can’t function without a head. Generally speaking, the chestplate and cranial units are very well-enforced, mainly to withstand bullet fire and other ranged weapons. For those of you who’ve never held a sword before, your task before tomorrow is to borrow a sword from the Training Facility and familiarise yourself with it. Learn its weight, its feel. Don’t rush into anything; we’ll be running through the basics in class. For those of you with swordsmanship experience, try and practice on the training dummies.”
With the homework assignment set, Braveheart dismissed the class.
7. Training Facility, Third Floor. Combat Simulation Room.
“Ugh… dammit.” Chirch grumbled, frustrated. Even after several attempts, she was still having trouble slicing the training dummy’s head off. She’d never used a sword before, but sheer curiosity had gotten the better of her while she was practicing her swings, and she wanted to take things to the next step. However, that step proved harder than she’d imagined. Maybe the muscles she used for archery were no good for swordfighting? As she prepared to swing again, she heard a girl’s voice from behind her.
“Your angles are off.”
Turning her head, Chirch began to scan the room. “Who was that?”
As the training room door closed, Chirch’s attention was drawn to the girl who had just entered. Although she was most likely a soldier-in-training, her dainty features and slender frame meant she looked more like a ballroom dancer-in-training.
“Shiira Em Rose. Class 3-1, soldier division. Call me Rose.”
Uncomfortable, Rose tried to move the conversation along. “And your name?”
“Oh, uhh… Diana Chirch. Call me Chirch.”
“Hmm. Well, it’s nice to meet you, Chirch.”
“So, uhh… how do I fix my angles?” Chirch asked.
As the topic shifted towards swordsmanship, Rose’s demeanour became noticeably more confident. “Show me how you hold your sword.”
Chirch held her sword out in front of her as if she were about to swing it at a bot. Rose walked over to her and adjusted her grip on the handle.
“You want your sword to be at a 90 degree angle to the ground. That way, when you make a horizontal swing, it’ll hit directly on the weakest part of the neck.”
“You look confused.” Rose said.
“I’ve never done this before.” Chirch replied.
“I figured.” Rose answered. “No offense, or anything. Look. Let me demonstrate.”
Rose walked towards the bot. Tilting her sword at a steep angle, she swung aggressively at the training dummy’s neck. Just like Chirch had done before, she hit its shoulder.
“Sure, you could probably brute force your way through a regular bot like this, but these training dummies are designed with shorter necks so you can only cut the head off with precise swings,” she explained. “Now watch how easy it is when I change the angle.”
Rose switched her sword back to its correct angle. With a swift, one-handed swing, she sliced clean through the dummy’s neck.
Rose pressed a button on the wall, switching the now decapitated dummy was taken away with a fresh, new one.
“Okay. Now you try.”
Carefully checking the angle of her sword, Chirch then walked over to the training dummy. Inhaling deeply, she released a powerful, two-handed swing that sliced cleanly through the dummy’s neck.
“See? Not so hard, is it?”
“I guess not.” Chirch paused for a moment. She had never been good at social interaction. “Uhh… thanks.”
“No thanks necessary.” Rose replied. “Seeing how quickly you picked that up, I’m sure you would have figured it out yourself.”
Riding the high of her achievement, Chirch pressed the button to summon a new training dummy.
“Hey, Rose. Wanna see something cool?”
“I, uhh… sure.” Rose answered.
As the new dummy arrived, Chirch ran to the opposite side of the room.
“Chirch? What are you…”
“Watch. Oh, and stand back, maybe.”
Swinging the sword around a couple of times to judge its weight, Chirch then extended her arm in front of her, looking down her sword as if it were the viewfinder on a gun. Bringing her arm out to her side, she flicked her wrist twice. On the third go, she moved her entire upper body, her feet planted firmly on the ground. As she swung around, she launched her sword at the training dummy. As her sword span through the air, Rose let out a startled scream, covering her mouth. As her sword arrived at the training dummy’s neck, it sliced clean through it, the blade eventually sticking itself in the wall on the opposite side of the room. Chirch looked over at Rose, as if to say “how was it?”. Rose, however, was lost for words.
“Whoah… that is really cool.” Rose replied.
“Weirdly enough, that’s probably how I would’ve eventually figured it out.”
Rose laughed. “I see. Well, you’ll have to teach me how to do that some time.” As Chirch pulled her sword out of the wall, Rose headed for the door. As she opened it, she looked over at Chirch. “I’ve gotta get to my own training now. It was nice meeting you, Chirch.”
Chirch cracked a half-smile. “Yeah.”
8. Training Facility. Having worked up a good sweat, Chirch is on her way to the shower room.
As Chirch walked past each of the training rooms, she took a moment to inspect each individual’s training form. She recognised a few kids from her class, and watched as they worked hard to hone their technique. A few of the older students caught her eye as well, and she was impressed by just how swiftly some of them moved. As she walked past the last room, she spied a familiar face. She stopped by the window to watch.
“Let’s see how good Rose is,” she thought. No sooner than had those thoughts taken form, Chirch was immediately awestruck by her senior’s technical ability. Surrounded by a circle of training dummies, Rose weaved around them, evading each of their attacks gracefully and effortlessly before systematically dismantling each one. She felt a hint of jealousy seeing the gap in skill between them, but also a new determination to reach that level as soon as possible. The only thing stopping her from going straight back to the training room was the rumbling of her stomach.
9. Kingsguard Soldier Academy – Canteen.
Chirch let out a satisfied sigh as she finished her post-training meal. The lady behind the canteen looked somewhat surprised at the amount of food she’d eaten, but that didn’t concern Chirch in the slightest. As she contemplated the possibility of dessert, she saw a familiar face enter. After serving herself food, the face spotted Chirch.
“Oh… Chirch, was it?”
Chirch nodded. “Yup.”
Rose walked over to Chirch’s table and sat opposite her. “Fancy seeing you again so soon.”
“Is that all you’re gonna eat?” Chirch asked.
Rose looked at her plate. “This is a normal amount, isn’t it?”
Chirch shrugged. “I dunno. But if I was moving around as quickly as you, I’d probably need at least 5 of those plates.”
“You saw me training?” Rose asked, flustered. Her cheeks began to flush a little.
Chirch nodded. “Yup. Your movements are so smooth… and really quick, too.”
“Thanks,” Rose replied, “But I’ve still got a long way to go.”
“Ah, that’s right. There was something I wanted to ask you.” Chirch said, remembering something from earlier.
“Your name is Em Rose, right? Does that mean you’re related to Commander Em Rose?” she asked.
“Well, he goes by General Em Rose now.” Rose answered. “And… yes. He’s my father.” Chirch could see Rose tense up as she mentioned her father’s name.
“Do you not like him or something?” Chirch asked.
“Huh? Why would you think that?”
“Well… when you started talking about him, you looked kinda stressed.”
“Oh. No, Daddy and I get along great. It’s just… as much as I love him, I wish I’d joined this school with a different name.”
“Huh? Why?” Chirch asked.
“Let’s just say, following in your father’s footsteps is a lot more difficult when your father is the most famous man in the country.” Rose answered. “The teachers, the kids in my class… anyone who hears the name “Em Rose” compares me to him, as if I’m supposed to be as strong as him already. And when I say I don’t let him train me, they look at me like I’m an idiot. I mean, I have Hiraeth’s mightiest hero ready and willing to show me his tricks, but I’m not using him…”
“Well that makes sense.” Chirch replied. “You’re not your dad, after all. And you don't want people to think you're some kind of copycat.”
Hearing these words, Rose’s tension was lifted instantly. “I’m glad you understand. You’d be surprised how many people don’t.”
Chirch was perplexed by this. “Weird.”
Rose giggled. “I’m glad you think so too. But it’s not all bad, being an Em Rose. My name alone means I get tons of strong people asking me to spar. Beating an Em Rose is a big deal for some. That being said, not many students here can beat me.”
“So that means there are some stronger than you then, right?” Chirch asked, quickly turning Rose’s humble brag around on her.
“Well, there’s one.” Rose replied. “A fourth year, by the name of Zak Niklaus. He was supposed to join the Kingsguard as an early recruit last year, but he injured himself training so the recruiters couldn’t judge him.”
“Early recruit?” Chirch asked.
“Every summer, the Kingsguard sends two senior members to the Academy to look for students who are ready to join the Kingsguard before they enter fourth year. It’s rare that anyone gets chosen, but the ones who do are considered once-in-a generation talents. It’s usually third years that get picked, but second years have been picked on occasion. There was even a first year who was recruited early once, too.” Rose explained. “I’m working hard to get recruited this year. I want to show people that I can live up to the Em Rose name without having to be exactly like my dad. To do that, I need to be able to beat Zak Niklaus. That’s my other goal.”
“How strong is this Niklaus guy?” Chirch asked.
“Well… if you think I’m fast, you should watch him.” Rose answered. “The last time I sparred him was at the end of last year, and I couldn’t keep up at all.”
“Let me help you.” Chirch suddenly announced.
“I know I might not be that good with a sword yet, but… I’m pretty confident I can help you get faster.” Chirch answered. “Besides, I owe you for the tips today.”
Rose laughed. “Sure. I could use a training partner, anyway. One condition, though. You let me help you with your swordsmanship.”
Chirch nodded. “Deal.”
Four years ago. Chirch’s childhood home. Chirch has just returned home from a day of hunting.
“Hey, Grandma! Look what I caught!” Chirch shouted, waving at her grandmother through the bedroom window.
Her grandmother came to the door and looked at Chirch’s haul. She sighed, seeing the carcass of an adult brown bear on her lawn. “Is that…”
Chirch nodded. “Yup. It’s the bear that kept rooting through our trash. I didn’t wanna kill it, but it tried to attack me.”
Her grandmother shook her head. “What am I supposed to do with a whole bear’s worth of meat, Chirch?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll do all the gross stuff.” Chirch replied.
“That’s not quite what I mean…”
“We can bring it to the farmer’s market.” Chirch answered cheerfully.
Her grandmother sighed. “I can’t believe you managed to do that with a bow and arrow…”
“Did you at least catch fish for tonight’s dinner like I asked you?” her grandmother asked.
Chirch opened the large cooler she’d brought with her on her hunt. “Yup! The bear tried to steal some, but I made sure he didn’t get a single one.”
“Is that why he attacked you?”
Chirch nodded. “Yup. He should have known I’m faster than him, though.”
Her grandmother could only laugh. “Well. I wouldn’t want to be a bear in these woods, that’s for sure.”
January 19th, 2252. 1. Kingsguard Soldier Academy – Outdoor Training Ground. The first years are having their first combat training session.
As Chirch’s class made their way from the changing rooms to the training ground, Chirch could only focus on calming her nerves. Especially after seeing Rose’s training the day before, she was worried she’d be behind her classmates. Her only goal for the day was to not look like a weakling in front of her peers. As she walked, a red-haired girl tapped her on the shoulder.
“Hey, you. Nervous?”
“Let me guess. Never held a sword before?”
“Well… once. Yesterday.” Chirch replied.
The girl gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. The Professor asks for volunteers for demonstrations, so you won’t have to do anything in front of the class that you don’t want to.”
Chirch felt mildly reassured hearing this. “Oh… thanks.”
“What’s your name?” the girl asked.
“Well, nice to meet you Chirch. My name’s Isabelle Song. You can call me Bell.” Bell announced proudly. “Now, we probably won’t be paired up a lot because I’m more experienced than you, but I’ll be cheering for you!”
“Thanks.” Chirch replied.
The girls then joined the boys in the lineup, as Professor Braveheart began his class. Bell stood next to Chirch, her friends a little further down the line.
“Now. For our first lesson, I’d like to see what level everyone’s at.” Braveheart barked. He then pointed at the training dummy behind him. “To start with, everyone will take a training sword from the basket over there, and try to slice through the neck of the dummy. Don’t worry if you can’t, that’s what we’re here to learn. Now, who wants to go first?”
After a few seconds of tense silence, Bell pushed Chirch forward. “Chirch would, Professor!”
Professor Braveheart shook his head. “Volunteering your fellow soldiers is uncalled for, Song. Perhaps you’d like to go first instead?”
Chirch looked back at Bell. Who would have thought high school girls could be so mean? However, things seemed to be working exactly as Bell wanted, as she still looked confident. Not wanting to give her the chance to show off, Chirch acted before Bell could step forward. “It’s fine, Professor. I’ll go first.”
“You sure, Chirch?”
Chirch nodded, and picked a training sword out of the basket.
“Very brave of you. I’m impressed.” Professor Braveheart said, sincerity behind his words. “If I remember from reading your record, you don’t have any swordsmanship experience?” he asked.
Chirch gave the sword a few practice swings to get a feel for its weight. “This is the second time I’ve held a sword.”
“So a novice. That’s okay. Give it your best shot, soldier!”
Chirch walked up to the training dummy, still swinging the sword in her right hand. Making sure her grip felt exactly the same as how Rose had shown her yesterday, she stopped a sword’s length away from the dummy, holding the sword in front of her to make sure her distance was correct. She could hear Bell and her friends giggling in the background. Hearing this, she decided it was time to assert herself. She looked over her shoulder, making brief eye contact with Bell. The moment their eyes met, she smirked. Bell stopped laughing instantly as Chirch sliced through the training dummy’s neck with one clean, effortless swing. As the dummy’s head hit the floor, the class, teacher included, fell deathly silent as Chirch stood, her sword-wielding right arm still outstretched from her swing.
Chirch's Grandmother - surprisingly okay with children using weapons.
Professor Braveheart - Definitely not an overused stereotype. Definitely not.
miss_SMP as Shiira Em Rose - An ambitious soldier-in-training with a point to prove.
Grin as Isabelle "Bell" Song - the highschool girl Grinny always wanted to be