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Author Topic: Wildness is a Necessity  (Read 142 times)

Wildness is a Necessity
« on: November 20, 2019, 11:05:10 AM »
Autumn held on, just barely. The sparse trees that peppered the heathland were all but entirely stripped of their golden leaves, which had fallen to form freezing mulch on the icy ground. Swaths of coarse heather held onto their flowers, though the once twilight-coloured blooms of purple and mauve had faded to brown. Mornings were dark and grim, and today's start came early enough that the cadets were shrouded in the pale, faint light of pre-dawn. Already, teams of two were breaking away, beginning the long hike on varying trails that wouldn't see them return to the barracks until supper - or later, if they were delayed.

It stood to be a long, cold day.

Having checked the bulletin posted the previous evening, Marco already knew he was to be partnered with Kaien Engelbrecht. Seven months into their arduous training and they had yet to share a conversation. It struck the freckled cadet as a little odd, given he tried to speak with everyone and learn as many names as he could. Kaien might tower over him - in the way that Kaien towered over everyone - but he had proved elusive too.

Not so now, the lavender-haired cadet's staggering height and broad build making him easy to spot even in the inky gloom and amidst the sea of bodies. Light was just beginning to paint the far horizon as Marco approached the older boy, his breath ghostly and pale in the still air. "Hey! Kaien, right?" Marco greeted warmly. Winter might almost be upon them, but his smile was all summer, and wide enough to reveal the dimples at the corners of his mouth. Not even the frosty nip and expansive dark could dampen his spirits.

Adjusting his backpack's straps so they rested more comfortably on his shoulders, Marco tilted his head back to regard his partner. "Looks like we'll be conquering the wilderness together," he remarked cheerfully, genuinely looking forward to the hike. It would be refreshing to walk miles from anywhere, hugged by nature on all sides. It would also be nice to finally get to know Kaien a little. « Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 11:06:53 AM by Marco Bott »

Re: Wildness is a Necessity
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2019, 09:51:43 PM »
The ground beneath his boots changed as the pale light from the rising sun attempted to give it life, shifting the faint shadows of those around him and making promises of warmth it could not keep. Kaien dug his chin and nose into the black scarf wrapped around his neck and sighed into the wool, allowing the warmth of his breath to heat up his lips and nose. It had only been autumn and already the cold seemed unforgiving and relentless, and it was only going to get worse as winter drew close.

Mornings were already difficult and often the hardest part of his day - rising before the sun was never his strong suit. He was always sore, always tired, his hunger never seemed to subside and the cold certainly did not help. This morning was no different and as he stood waiting for his assigned partner he miserably tried to ignore the sunken feeling within his stomach and the impending growl that was bound to make an appearance. He kept his gaze focused on the ground, watching as shadows took off to start their hike until one suddenly covered the ground before him.

At the mention of his name Kaien turned his head to look at his partner - Marco Bott. For seven months Kaien had managed to avoid most of the cadets like Marco; the ones with unrelenting optimism. It only made you weak, vulnerable, and in his experience life always had a way of proving you wrong. Already the smile on Marco’s lips rubbed him the wrong way and he furrowed his brows in slight irritation as excitement was clearly evident in the other’s voice.

For a moment Kaien held his gaze, his eyes analyzing the cadet before him with a critical stare. He wasn’t sure if Marco was being serious. Excitement, ’conquering’ the wilderness? Nothing about the hike ahead was meant to be pleasant, nothing they ever did there was meant to be any kind of ‘fun’.  He bent down and grabbed hold of the backpack by his feet and pulled down the scarf covering his mouth. ”Sure.” he mumbled, throwing the backpack over his shoulder before turning around and starting the long, seemingly endless walk ahead. ”Let’s just get this over with, Frecks. and then there it was, as soon as he let his guard down; his stomach growled. Kaien's eyes widened in embarrassment but he forced his feet to keep moving in the hopes that Marco didn't hear.

Re: Wildness is a Necessity
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2019, 04:54:58 PM »
Although the lower half of Kaien's face was swathed by a black scarf, its pitch fabric all but blending into their gloomy surroundings, the faint furrow in his brow was not so easily disguised. Marco had the distinct impression that he was being weighed and measured by that steady, violet-hued gaze. Either that, or it was simply a trick of the pre-dawn light. Before Marco could draw any solid conclusions, Kaien bent to retrieve his backpack from the frosty ground, tugging down the scarf. His mouth was pressed into an impassive line, giving no hint as to his feelings, except that he was unenthused by the prospect of hiking all day.

Frecks. That was a new one. Marco couldn't help but smile, enjoying a warm flicker of camaraderie at the use of a nickname. It could only be a good thing that Kaien felt comfortable enough to call him something other than his birth moniker. Every sobriquet he ever had or heard revolved around the freckles that painted his body, his mother's go-to being Starling. Those dark birds visited their garden often, chattering and jousling one another as they stormed the lawn, iridescent plumage speckled with white spots. Their markings were prettier than his own, he felt, and their temperaments more bolshie, but it was a sweet pet name all the same.

These thoughts of home were short-lived, interrupted by the low growl of his companion's stomach. A shadow of embarrassment passed over Kaien's features, brief yet striking enough to keep Marco from giving any indication that he had heard. Instead, the freckled boy wondered how soon he could feasibly suggest they stop to nibble at their rations, without raising any suspicions. Lengthening his stride to fall in beside Kaien, Marco cast a glance upwards. His partner had to have a foot on him in height, the top of his own head barely meeting the older cadet's shoulder. No wonder Kaien was hungry; his body's fire burned brighter, hotter and bigger than anyone else's, and no doubt required more fuel.

"Shall I orienteer first?" Marco asked, patting himself down to produce a compass from one of his pockets, which he then dutifully hung around his neck. Being a conscientious student, he had already pored over their route in detail. It had a simple enough beginning, with an established trail leading them away from the starting point and up into the hills. From there, they would be relying heavily on the topography, their compass and map.

"How are you finding things so far?" Marco queried, relaxing into his step, feeling prepared and positive about the day to come. He tilted his head again to regard Kaien warmly. "The Training Corps, I mean."

Re: Wildness is a Necessity
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2019, 02:12:57 AM »
Marco didn’t seem to notice the soft growl his stomach emitted and a small sigh of relief blew past his lips, forming a misty vapour in the cold air. His eyes flicked down to watch as the visible air dissipated, reminding him of a simpler time when the sight of one’s own breath excited the innocent mind of a child. It always served as a sign to him - that the real cold was about to come, and for so many winters he hardly ever had to deal with its harsh realities.

Hardly ever - but not never.

The sound of footsteps started to match his own and soon he realized Marco was by his side, his light-brown eyes glancing up at him with an analytical, familiar curiosity he always saw when people weighed his size against their own. It usually went one of two ways; either they seemed intimidated - furrowed brows and anger filled eyes glared back at him - or they avoided further eye contact from that point on because he was different, unusual… odd. People didn’t like what they couldn’t control, conquer or understand. It was a lesson hard learned.

This wasn’t either of those though, and the dim light from the sun reflecting off of his marble eyes confirmed it; it was curiosity, but also it was just a simple moment of observation. Marco didn’t seem to care much for his size at all, and just moved on to the next thing. Kaien raised a brow, slightly taken aback by his hiking partner whom he avoided for several months. He watched as he patted himself down, revealing a small compass from his pocket and for a moment he thought he might have misjudged the younger cadet. Perhaps he wasn’t so much overly enthusiastic… just smart.

“Alright.” he agreed, looking ahead of them up the established trail that would eventually lead them up into the hills. “It’s probably for the best anyway.” and it probably was. Kaien knew the city well, he knew the districts and some of the smaller villages but he didn’t know anything much about the wilderness other than that upon the pages of a book. For the most part training as a cadet seemed easy enough - he barely had to put in any effort and could slack off most of the time - but this along with the ODM gear proved to be a struggle.

His legs seemed to already move on their own, shortening his lengthy strides to keep pace with Marco while his eyes focused ahead. The sun was beginning to rise now, in the distance the tangerine mountains, kissed to their heady blush by the sun, were clouds that moved in shoals. It was beautiful, but it was the last thing his mind focused on as the path ahead promised to be anything but pleasant.

But Kaien wasn’t allowed to wallow in his negativity for too long as Marco’s voice soon pulled him back to the present moment. It took Kaien some time to register his question even after he clarified, his eyes confused and quizzical as he organized his own mind. “Uhm,” it was a simple question, really, but somehow it felt very difficult to answer. He turned his eyes to the fore, soon ducking underneath a bare branch from a tree that stood with only a few withered leaves hanging on to its lifeless corpse. “It’s rather boring, I guess.” the branch snapped back as he released it, causing the leaves to fall to the frosted ground beneath. “But that’s a good thing, right?” he asked half rhetorically as he turned to look down into Marco’s warm light-brown eyes, his filled with with a hint of curiosity but his expression as bland as ever.

He didn’t remain there long before turning on his heel, the boot digging into the frosty, wet ground before he pushed off into a walk once more. “What about you?” he called back, moving yet another branch out of his way.

Re: Wildness is a Necessity
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2019, 11:54:47 PM »
It's probably for the best anyway.

Those words caused Marco to tilt his head a little. Did this mean his partner lacked confidence with orienteering? The instructors often had reams of information to impart during lessons, and frequently lectured to sizeable classes - that was thanks to the introduction of conscription, no doubt - so it was all too easy to miss some details. Diligent though he was, it had happened to Marco himself on occasion. Perhaps when they were up on the hillside, he could offer to help Kaien with the more technical aspects of hiking. And if the lavender-haired boy wasn't interested, that was okay too, as Marco was content to navigate the entire route for them if needed. Even if this was the first time his own capabilities would be properly tested.

Walls, hopefully they didn't get lost.

There came a stretch of silence, save for Kaien's thoughtful hum, which suggested the older cadet was giving the question some consideration. Marco was grateful for that; an earnestly given answer was always preferable to one uttered reflexively. Still, Kaien's response, when it came, caught him by surprise.

"Boring is… good?" Marco queried gently, following his companion's lead by coming to a halt and peering up at him quizzically. Boredom wasn't something he often felt, admittedly, preoccupied as he was with applying himself to his studies, fervently using his spare time to study and revise his notes - and to write home, of course. Kaien moved off again and Marco followed suit, now travelling in the older boy's wake.

"I'm really enjoying it," Marco confessed, his focus falling to the ground, watching the rise and fall of Kaien's boots. The incline was growing steeper, the cold air around them carrying with it the faint scent of fallen pine needles. "I have a lot to learn, and there are so many new skills to practice…" After a pause, and with his head full of thoughts of his mother and a door framed by climbing roses, Marco continued: "But even though I've always wanted to be a soldier, I sometimes miss home."

Through the trees came the brilliant, blazing light of sunrise, heralded by the first sounds of muted birdsong, the bravest of the woodland's creatures welcoming the frigid dawn. The spoke-like shadows cast by the bare trees were stark and inky, sunlight sparkling in the frost-rimmed puddles that punctuated the trail path. Although his boots were up to the task of wading straight through them, Marco chose instead to avoid the small pools, oftentimes placing his feet in the prints Kaien left. Twigs snagged and dragged across their coats, the taller boy contending with branches more frequently than his freckled partner.

A glance up revealed dawn's light catching in the purple-hued hair Marco itched to ask about. Instead, another question fell from his lips. "You're - you're from Wall Sina, right?" The question rang hesitant, even to his own ears. Bringing up something Kaien hadn't told him directly felt dangerously close to bad manners, but his curiosity was too great, burning too bright and too hot to hold. Cadets loved to talk, and although Marco didn't enjoy gossip, he would have to be deaf to have not heard some whispers about the towering boy's origin. Rumours of nobility seemed to carry some weight, and the education that accompanied such high birth might go some way to explaining why Kaien was bored by their classes. « Last Edit: December 02, 2019, 11:55:52 PM by Marco Bott »


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