When the door closed behind the visitor, Captain Pain raised his eyes from the papers he was reading and asked in an irritated tone:
"The hell do you need, kid?"
He sat in a big chair, reading some papers. Mira Rahna was shocked to see him wear small round glasses. She stood there in surprise, and the Captain decided to ask again:
"What is it, girl?"
"I want to be the squad leader." She said bluntly, collecting herself.
"I want to be a unicorn princess, so what?"
"Make me the leader. You can do it, I know!" She flushed with tension and embarrassment.
"And why should I do that?" His irritation was palpable.
Mira made a few steps in his direction and removed her shirt. Underneath were her bare breasts, jiggling up and down with her every move. She paused, and then began to slowly lower her pants.
"I see." The Captain's irritation quickly disappeared. "Ok, I heard you. Now, take your clothes and get the fuck out of here."
Mira was perplexed, her face now scarlet. She tried to cover her chest with both hands but forgot about the pants, so they fell on the floor, revealing her bushy triangle.
"What?! Why?!" Her voice trembled with anger and embarrassment.
"Are you dumb or something? If I slept with every kid who offered me her body for some special treatment, I would have died from exhaustion thirty years ago or something." He laughed hard, shaking his head. "Now, as I said, get your clothes and piss off."
He adjusted the glasses and turned back to his papers, no longer paying any attention to Mira and her struggle.
Mira was fuming. She angrily grabbed her shirt from the floor, pulled up her already downed pants and stormed away.
On the next morning, before their workout, Orisa stood at the post office room.
"I'm sorry, I need to send a letter. It is urgent if there are any options available."
"We can send it via train. It will take somewhere between one and three days." A middle-aged man in round glasses replied indifferently. "We can send it via Managraph, if the recipient is a military member. It will take somewhere between one and three hours. If the recipient is not a military member, it will take somewhere between four and twelve hours and incur additional costs."
"Managraph, then." Orisa handed him the letter. It turned out long, four pages. The clerk took it, unfolded the pages and skimmed through them quickly before saying:
"This will be 24 mids."
Orisa was baffled. '24 mids is more than half of the money Rita gave me!'
"Why... is it so expensive?"
"Full page costs 6 mids via Managraph. You can send it via train. It will cost you 48 mins."
She bit her lip. 'Can I afford the wait? It's either three days or half of my money.'
"I'll take the Managraph."
After lunch, they had a squad leader selection test.
"The squad leader will manage internal affairs of the squad," Began Captain Pain, "he will be in charge of getting orders, tasks and will deliver them to the squad. Discipline, scheduling, assignments, there are other responsibilities. Being the squad leader comes not only with more work but with benefits, too. Like a small salary, access to additional features in the library, infirmary, canteen. Being the squad leader is a respected, but difficult job that not many people can do."
Everyone in the room looked thoughtful.
"We'll consider not only your written tests but your personality and abilities, too. Now, turn up your papers and begin."
The first block of questions was about the structure of the military. Then there were questions about laws, geography and many other things. Four pages later Orisa found free-form questions.
'1. Describe each of your squad members with less than 10 words.'
She was vaguely familiar with all of them, but this was not enough to give a description. 'Okay, then I'll write about people I know, and that's it. Iten, Onuki, Kanai, Toatre, Rakasha, Mira.'
'2. In less than 25 words describe why do you want to be the squad leader.'
Deep in thought, Orisa chewed on her pen. 'Why do I want to be the squad leader..? Why do I want to... Do I want to?' She came to a more important question. A memory of her previous life surfaced. She recalled every time she volunteered and got screwed because of that. 'How many times I regretted being in charge? How many time I dreamed about being a subordinate of a more competent leader?'
'3. Would you like to recommend someone for this position?'
'That's an easy one.' Orisa filled the answer and handed the papers to Captain Pain.
"Good. Now, go to Miss Satou for Mana training class." As Orisa went away, the Captain reviewed her papers.
- I don't want to be the squad leader.
- Iten Yada.
The Captain chuckled, folding the papers back.
Later that day, Orisa finished her dinner after the Mana training session was over and went for a short stroll.
An infuriated Mira grabbed her forearm and turned her around.
"What do you think you are doing?!" She almost screamed.
"Huh..? What... are you talking about?"
"Don't play dumb, you bitch!" Now she started to yell. "Do you think I'm some slut or something?!"
It took Orisa few seconds to understand the situation. 'It seems, mistakes were made.' Again and again, Orisa was screwed by her noble ideas.
"Are you talking about Rakasha?" Mira just glared at her without a reply, so Orisa continued. "Listen, I, of course, don't think anything bad of you. But a few days ago you said yourself something like 'I want to ride a hot guy' or something..."
"It was a fucking joke!"
"Was it..?" Orisa was puzzled.
"Oh, fuck off, bitch, go to hell." Mira turned around and stormed away.
Orisa helplessly sank on the closest bench.
'Why is this happening to me?' But she already knew the answer.
She sat on the bench for quite some time, brooding over the past few days. Her future looked grim. No guarantee that Rita would be able to help. And now this thing happened.
"What are you so gloomy about?" Asked Onuki in a cheery tone. Orisa let out a long sigh.
"I messed up."
"C'mon, let's have a walk, and you'll tell me everything."
Together with Onuki, they were walking in the park, holding hands like they usually do. Orisa stopped questioning Onuki habit since it was not bothering her anyway.
She told Onuki about her ordeal with Mira, but she just waved it away with no concern at all.
"Mira is always looking to blame someone over something. The day is ruined for her without any conflict or argument. Don't worry; she'll forget everything in a day or two."
'I'd like to know more about that episode in the shower, but how to ask and not harm her?' This question she was pondering for quite some time, but didn’t know how to approach.
The park was big and complex. Aside from the central valley, all other roads were narrow and winding, separated from each other with a tall and dense hedge. They created a complex maze with a lot of secluded spots where people could hide and do all sorts of things.
It was dark, and illumination in the park was scarce. As they walked, they occasionally heard fragments of talks, giggling, and even moans.
"How was your consultation?" Orisa asked
"As expected. Battle mage, Healer or Support." Onuki replied in a dead voice.
"I'm sorry. Have you asked about being a craftsman or an engineer?"
"They said that I can do whatever I want in my free time, and additional skills are always welcome. But if I'm able to fight, I need to fight."
"In the worst case scenario, you can leave the military. But I was advised against it by the person I really trust."
"That's what I'm thinking about right now. But I think I'll be fine, as long as I'm with you." Onuki squeezed Orisa's hand.
They walked, looking into the sky, diving deeper into the park's maze.
"You seem very close to Iten," Onuki said casually, "I can see you two together quite often. Are you dating?"
"Huh? No, of course not. He is a friend, maybe even less than a friend. He helped me a few times and saved my ass, but I don't feel any interest coming from him. Plus, I heard, he is already taken."
"What a pity." Onuki giggled.
"No, not really." As Orisa thought about, the idea made her shiver. 'I don't think any relationships will work with this body of mine. Me dating girls is weird, and dating boys is gross.'
For some time they strolled in silence, making one turn after another. As they were passing by a small hedge booth with a bench inside, Onuki pulled Orisa there and removed her own glasses.
'She must be tired.' Orisa thought, glad to rest a little, too.
Suddenly, Onuki hugged Orisa's waist and pulled her closer. Their lips met. Onuki's lips felt a bit rough and dry. Kisses went one after another, not giving Orisa any time to think.
Something wet and hot slipped inside Orisa's mouth, searching for her tongue. At the same time, Onuki lowered her hands from Orisa's waist to her butt and squeezed it, pulling her even closer.
Orisa's legs became weak, and she felt incredibly hot. Her mind started to slip away.
'What are you doing? Out of your mind?' For some reason, the internal critic's voice sounded angry.
'What... what... am I doing? Yes. This is wrong!' She was able to return to her senses at the same time as Onuki' hand squeezed her nipple.
"Wait... Onuki, please, wait." Orisa slowly pushed her away. Onuki's face was red, her eyes glittered.
"What..? Why?" Onuki was perplexed.
"I... I don't... Look, I'm..." Her mind was still hazy, and Orisa was at loss of words.
"I like you! I thought you liked me, too!"
"I like you, but I'm not sure how... I mean, I... It's all so complicated, I'm sorry, I..."
"You are so messed up." Tears rained down Onuki's cheeks. She bit her lip and stormed away.
"Wait! No… Let me explain…" But it was too late.
Orisa slowly slipped to the ground. Tears started to well in her eyes. 'Please, give me a break... I can't go on like this. Please, I beg you, whoever you are. Give me a break.'
When Orisa got back to the dorm, Onuki was already in her bed.
"Onuki, can we talk?" Orisa said sheepishly but got no answer.
She bit her lip, feeling a large specter of emotions - shame, regret, guilt, disappointment in herself.
At that moment the door opened, and Mira entered. Orisa turned to her:
"Mira, I'm really sorry about all that, please-"
"Fuck off, bitch." She snapped and went to her bed, pushing Orisa away.
Orisa sat on her bed, hugging her knees. She felt lonely, vulnerable, cornered. As if the entire world was against her.
'Why is this happening to me?'
Toatre curiously observed the situation. After thinking of something she said in a deep voice:
"Things come, and then they go away. Yesterday's quarrel will be today's laughter and tomorrow's memory." She stood up to turn off the light when someone knocked on the door.
Toatre returned in a minute and handed Orisa an envelope.
"A letter for you, Orisa. Urgent."
"Thank... you, Toatre."
Orisa took the envelope carefully and looked at the sender:
Arrival Chamber 71
Not wasting a single second Orisa tore its side and pulled out a stack of nine pages.
'Dear Orisa. Thank you, I'm all well, though I really miss you. Things are looking grim on your end. It seems that your journey in this world will be a rocky one, to say the least. You had a hard time, and now it’s difficult for you too, and in the future, it will probably be even harder.
But do not despair. I'm here, I'm with you and for you, and I will do whatever I can to support you.
I won't promise you an easy way. I won't even say that it will work out. It might not, so don't put your hopes up too much. But I have an idea, and, you will be surprised, it has something to do with me and my past.
So here is what you should start with..."
As Orisa read the letter, tears fell from her eyes. Tears that were meant to be of sadness now were tears of relief. There was someone who cared about her. She was not alone.
“I will beat you, world.”