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"Come on maggots! CRAWL FASTER!" James screamed at the mud-drenched recruits crawling under a series of barb-wired obstacles. James fired his Magelock over the heads of the weary recruits, his live round smacking next to the wet snow, where one of the recruits stopped to take a breather, making the recruit flinch and continue his crawl.

The snow had been churned into mud by the bodies of the sleep-deprived recruits as they navigated through the obstacle courses. Somewhere down the line, Mills sadistically splashed buckets of wyvern blood and guts over the struggling recruits. "Get used to blood and gore!" while other drill instructors fired live ammunition among the recruits.

Once the obstacle course was completed, the recruits were then forced marched eight kilometers to another location where they began another series of challenging exercises. The recruits' final week of training is to complete the Crucible test.

The Crucible is a test every recruit must go through to become a Marine. It tests every recruit physically, mentally and morally and is the defining experience of recruit training. The Crucible takes place over 72 hours and includes food and sleep deprivation and over 80 kilometers of marching. The recruits get barraged constantly in the day and night with exercises, which required every recruit to work together to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and help each other along the way.

The obstacles they faced included long marches, combat assault courses, leadership reaction courses, and team-building exercises. All the while, their instructors were in warm clothes, drinking hot drinks, and offering them food, hot beverages, blankets, and a warm shower if they will just quit and ring the Bell. Yet so far none of the elves covered in snow had given up, they pushed and encouraged each other, showing the humans that they were a very tough race.

Newly promoted Master Sergeant Pike sat on the jeep, watching the recruits humping over 20 kg of gear trotted zombie-like over the snow as they finished the final course. The freezing night wind blew strongly against the tired elves, but they ignored the freezing wind and stubbornly pushed on, even if their feet oozed with broken blisters.

Soon, the sun rose and Camp Alpha appeared in their sights, the tired recruits broke into a marching song to keep their spirits up and to ignore the chill and weariness creeping into their bones.

"In the early morning sun,
With a field pack on my back,
And an aching in my heart,
And my body full of sweat,
I'm a long long way from home,
And I miss my girlfriend so,
In the early morning march,
When the cold wind blows,
When the cold wind blows,
When the cold wind blows,
When the cold wind blows,
I know I know,
You have to go,
So hurry back home,
I miss you so."

Pike smiled in the rear of the jeep, that was following behind the marching recruits. Soon they will become real Marines after they reached the Camp and received their globe and anchor badge, which signified them becoming a Marine. Damn, these guys are pretty hardcore, Pike hoped that the next batch of recruits will be the same too.

As the recruits marched through the gates, they headed to the parade square where dozens of viewing stands were constructed. Surprised, they found out that their families and relatives whom they listed as their next of kin appeared in the stands, waving and cheering them on.

The tiredness that had seeped into their bones instantly vanished, and they marched straighter and proudly. Even with their unkempt appearance, they marched in step, and kept in proper formation, holding their rifles at port arms.

As they assembled at the parade square, Major Frank and Master Sergeant Pike stood before them standing on a covered platform, with Princess Sherene as the Guest of Honor. Captain Blake, Commander Ford, Lord Joesph, and the other high rankers, sat behind on the reviewing stand.

Out of the 448 recruits, six were dropped out due to injuries sustained during the training. The six will be allowed to rejoin the training after they had recovered fully. Other than those six, not a single former Goldrose soldier gave up and ring The Bell set outside the parade ground.

The Bell was a simple cast iron bell, if any recruit who wishes to quit, can ring the bell three times loudly in the middle of the whole camp. And if they ring the Bell during the Crucible test, they get to have hot food, drinks, and warm dry clothes in front of the rest of the wet, cold and hungry recruits.

They marched passed the public viewing stands and saluted the officers in the reviewing stands before stopping their march in front of the podium. Now the 442 recruits formed up proudly, all traces of fatigue gone, and stood in attention staring straight ahead. Master Sergeant Pike nodded, proud of the recruits standing in front of him. "All of you made me proud, I have never seen a batch of recruits like you who never gave up! You now no longer maggots, you not pieces of crap, nor are you not idiots, and no longer recruits, you are all Marines. You have completed what I’ve done many years ago when I was a recruit like you.” Master Sergeant Pike voice amplified by the mike and speakers set around the parade square.

Major Frank took over and gave his speech to the Marines, "Today you people are no longer maggots. Today you are Marines. You're part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Sawtooth Pass. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this, Marines die, that's what we're here for! But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means you live forever!"

"HOORAH!" The men roared aloud in unison. The force of their roar gave Princess Sherene goosebumps. Being told that they will die, yet their morale is so high, Princess Sherene thought it was quite scary, how did they train them to become so hardcore? She wondered.

Princess Sherene was than invited to give a speech on behalf of the people. The crowded stands cheered as she stood before the podium, she cleared her throat and the people hushed, allowing her to speak. "My people, we had come a long way since we left our motherland. Everyone had experienced some kind of loss along the way. Now the Hoomans had reached out a helping hand to us, not only in material means but also in military help."

"Today we are gathered here to witness the birth of a new army to defend us from our enemies, with the help of our Hooman allies. Let us salute our brave men who are willing to give their lives so that we can sleep peacefully at night. Thank you." Princess Sherene gave a bow to the gathered troops. The public also stood up and bowed respectfully to the men standing in attention in the parade square.

"Congratulations, Marines!" Major Frank stood at attention and gave a salute to the graduated Marines, who saluted back. "You will now receive your Anchor and Globe insignia, which means you are Marines now!"

The drill instructors gave out and walked down the rows of elves, issuing a Marine insignia and congratulating each and every one of them. "You are no longer recruits! You can call us by our rank and names from now onwards!"

"Now return your gear and arms, you have two hours with your friends and families gathered here, after that clean up all your gear and tomorrow you get one week off. Platoon leaders dismiss your men!" Master Sergeant Pike gave the order once every Marine had been issued a Marine insignia.

The newly graduated Marines cheered and the individual acting platoon leaders gave the commands for them to dismiss. The Marines than rapidly dispersed back to their barracks to change and drop their gear, before returning to the parade square dressed in new uniforms to find their loved ones and sharing their experiences excitedly and asking them to pin the new insignia on for them.

The drill instructors went around with digital cameras to help the families and friends to take a picture together with the graduated Marines. Almost everyone was no longer strangers to the hoomans' "tek-no-logee" and they eagerly gathered to take pictures.

Princess Sherene watched the scene from her seat with mixed emotions. She found that the practices of the hoomans were very different from her people's way of living and thinking, which can be counted on as cultural differences. But watching the way the new soldiers and their families and friends behave now, she felt them no longer as part of the people. She wondered if every one of the people will be brainwashed into becoming more hooman-like in the future. Will the people's identity and the culture and history of Goldrose be lost forever?

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A note from neo Koh

phew had to attend a wedding today...

rushed back to write! Hope you guys enjoy!


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neo Koh

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