(One hour earlier)
“It costs three silver coins, and no further discount.”
Logann’s eyes twitched as he stared at the lady behind the counter. “This is just one piece of bread,” he said, trying to maintain his composure.
The fat lady shrugged, “this is war, kid. All prices are plummeting.” She narrowed her eyes, “now, pay up or get going.”
Logann grunted as he took out two silver coins from his back pocket and put them on the counter. I reached for another one inside a pouch on my side and put it next to his.
The woman smiled smugly at us. “Thank you, please come again.”
We walked out of the small shop with Logann muttering curses under his breath. “Stupid old hag putting black market prices on a piece of bread…”
I chuckled at this behaviour of him. “Calm down, Logann. We can just shop at another store tomorrow.”
He frowned as he broke the bread into two and gave one half to me.
I giggled and took one bite from the bread. It tasted sweet but bitter at the same time.
This happened at six thirty in the morning. We were at Lys, the capital city of the Human Nation.
In New Earth, people aged thirteen to forty must serve in the military and fight in the war against the Black Army.
Those aged thirteen to seventeen who are still too young to go to real wars, including Logann and myself, are required to train every day and be taught essential skills to survive in the battlefield.
We were on our way to the Training Ground.
I remember looking around and admiring the markets, shops, and thousands of people crowding the streets of Lys’ Business District because the whole vibrant atmosphere of the place really never failed to amaze me. The paths are made up of bright red bricks, and the buildings on the sides are painted in different colours: blue, green, yellow, purple — never the same colour next to each other. Above us, the sky was full of airships, the common public transportation in Lys, each floating at different speeds and levels.
Logann and I live just outside the gates of Lys, in a small farming village called Baíle. So my morning walks to the Training Ground always feel so warm since the busy atmosphere in the city contrasted the usual peaceful demeanour of Baíle.
But this morning, I don’t feel the same warmth I usually do. Instead, I feel restless.
The oddity began just as we were about to reach the Main Business District Airship Station to take a ride to the Training Ground. Suddenly, Logann turned to walk the other way and signalled me to follow him.
I raised my eyebrow in response, but curiously decided to just trail him.
At first, he took a route which lead to the Research and Education District where the Training Ground is located, so I thought that he just wanted to adopt a healthier lifestyle by walking to the Training Ground instead of taking airship.
However, not long after that, he took a turn towards a different route which leads to the Technology Development Institution of the Human Nation (or more commonly known as the Human Nation T.D.I).
“Logann, the training ground is on the other side of the district,” I reminded him.
Logann turned to look at me. “Check your watch, Robin, we’re skipping training today. Supervisor just called, we have a mission,” he said as he showed me his notification watch, our tool to communicate with the people inside the Training Ground.
I was almost happy that we wouldn’t need to go for training today, but I was also confused.
The soldiers were divided into three divisions, Inside Security, Outside Security, and Desk Command Division.
Logann and I belonged in the Outside Security Division. Our job mostly comprises of monitoring the city’s perimeter and making sure that the city is safe — from the outside.
We were used to doing small missions like Search and Rescue or Gate Guarding outside the city, but this was the first time we were assigned on a mission inside the city.
I guess that should have been my cue to not get involved in this mess…
As we walked deeper inside the route, I realised that the T.D.I area was surrounded by soldiers of the Inside Security Division, led by its General — as well as our Training Ground supervisor — a man that I never truly liked, Cyrus Hayshield.
“What are we doing here?” I whispered to him. “This is a job for Inside Security, not us.”
Logann shrugged, “Why are you asking me? Ask them,” he gestured towards the Inside Security soldiers.
I felt more out of place as we walked towards the buildings of the T.D.I. Everyone here seemed to be an older soldier — at least twenty-five years of age. Here, I who am barely seventeen felt like a fresh raw meat in the midst of old, experienced hounds.
Not long after that, three warships — each shaped like a flat metal triangle with very little room that only fits one person — landed on a landing site in the corner of the T.D.I ground.
I gulp. This was the first time I saw a warship in this close proximity.
“Logann, this mission looks very serious. Are you sure we’re in the right place?” I said, failing to hide my somewhat panicking tone.
Logann tilted his head to face me and smiled, but I know from his eyes that he was sensing the same threat I was feeling.