My Sweet Gentle Veteran

Entry Writchal #2

Theme: Maid

My Sweet Gentle Veteran.

It was early spring when the landscape was new and washed in the green of new leaves. The birds build their nest atop the maple trees, as luscious light weeps down from the window of a humble abode near the woods.

I was there, standing inside a room littered with contradictions. Rows and rows of dirt chipped paintings clung to the walls, whilst numerous brass cross medals lay scattered about, dusty and holey. A prized medallion with the almighty medal of honour was boxed up on an unremarkable end table, carelessly placed like some used brushes. A sniper rifle of the newest model leaned up against the wall in the corner, surrounded by half used bottles of paints. A letter cheque mentioning Veteran aid lies side by side with a newspaper, whose headline reads “The End of War.” In short, war hero memorabilias were strewn across the room along with various art supplies.

In the middle of it all a figure could be seen sitting on a stool. A slim girl donning a long white dress, with hair white as snow and eyes purple as lavender. Her gentle and kind face was sullied by a sharp scar across her right eye. She stared blankly at a large canvas resting atop an easle, with a dry paintbrush sticking out of her mouth.

I by no means am an artist. The extent of my art skills only went as far as using pencils to make a scenery consisting of two mountain peaks, a sun in the middle, and some “m” shapes that are supposed to resemble birds.  So, when looking at the work that she has done, I couldn’t help but notice how special she was. The beauty she had brought to the painting far exceeded anything I ever could have created. However, even I, with all of my vapid ignorance, am aware that paint brushes are supposed to be held by your hands. Not sticking out of your mouth like a cigarette. She unfortunately was unable to. The war took everything from her, including her ability to paint. It truly was a poignant sight.

Her eyes were devoid of light, as if she was absorbed by something else after staring at that blank canvas. Her mind went adrift, plunging into the abyss of uncertainty. She has been like this for the past hour.

I’ve been here for almost a year, but I still found myself gripping my hands and gritting my teeth to hold back this wave of sadness I felt every time I saw her like this. Imagining the pain she had to go through, the sadness and the hopelessness she endured…

Entering the room, I called her out.


She did not respond. I inch closer and tapped her gently on the shoulder.

            “Lieutenant Caulia.”


I heard the paint brush she was biting fell down on the wooden floor. She turned to look at me, and smiled.

            “Ah, it’s you, Lonnete.”

            “Yes… it is me. Come Lieutenant. I’ve prepared dinner for you.”

            “Gee, I told you before not to call me that, didn’t I? I’m not that much older than you, you know. You can just call me by my name.”

            “But you’re a hero…“

She sighs. “Heroes huh… That nonsense again. Heroes don’t kill people, Lonnete.”

            “But Lieutenant…”

“Well, suit yourself.”

I glanced at the large blank canvas sitting in front of her. Below her, a wooden paint palette with dry oil paint lies untouched.

“Um…  Do you need any help with that, Lieutenant?” I asked. gesturing towards the canvas and the paint palette.

“Oh, this? Ah, not really. I haven’t gotten any inspiration to paint anything at all, haha. Maybe sometimes later.”

            “Okay. Here, your walking stick.”

            “Ah, thanks Lonnete. ”

            “Of course, Lieutenant. I’m here to assist you, after all.”

I handed the walking stick to her and helped the Lieutenant up by supporting her on my shoulder. Our motion was quite awkward, she was still a soldier after all. Even though she looks slim, her firm posture quite easily overwhelms mine. Either that, or it’s because I haven’t been getting much sleep lately… I have to be careful to not cause further pain to her because of my negligence. Not only did she lack a pair of arms to support herself, she still couldn’t walk properly with her legs after all.

I walked with her through the corridor leading up to the dining room. At one point, I stepped onto something. When I look down to see, it was a crumpled month-old newspaper. The headlines read the opening for a certain theatrical audition whose deadlines had long since passed. For a moment, my mind went into contemplation, I still have that dream of being a cinema star hanging up somewhere. Though that would have to wait, as now, I have more pressing matters to attend to. I turned to the Lieutenant to inform her of the dinner.

            “We’ll be having roasted chicken with asparagus soup for dinner. I hope that is to your liking…”I said, shyly.

        “That sounds good, I can’t wait. Your cooking is good, you know!” The lieutenant said, enthusiastically.

The Lieutenant, she always acts like this around me. And I mean…  I know… I know why. I know why she acted like someone who is my senior in highschool. I know why she tried to be friendly towards me. She is indeed only three years older than me, that’s enough for us to be in the same school given the right circumstances. And she didn’t have the intimidating aura that your typical soldier gives off. She looked and acted like a normal girl, like me. She wants me to see her as such, but how could I? After learning of her story, after knowing what she went through…

And despite it all. While she may give me a gentle smile every time I’m around. I can’t help but to feel that her eyes were always… vacant. It is as if she’s not really looking at me despite directing her eyes my way. She was always seeing something else. It is always apparent everytime I leave her on her own for an extended period of time and I can only imagine what she’s actually seeing.  I always feel bad seeing her like that. I want to help her but I don’t know how. Can I really help her?

Unlike her, I’m merely just a maid. I am not a hero after all…

            “Lonnete.” She said, dragging me back from my thought

            “Yes, Lieutenant?”

            “You said you wanted to be an actress, right? A… cinema star?”


            “Why do you want to be an actress?”

            “Why? Because…”

Her question caught me off guard. It actually has been quite some times since anybody asked me that question. As a little girl, I would be able to answer that immediately without a second thought. ‘I want to be famous’ ‘I want to be rich’ ‘I want to see the world’ ‘I want to go on an adventure’. But, uh, I don’t know… Those reason seems so shallow now that I’m older.

I was thinking of giving a more impactful reason like… I want to help people through my acting, or, I want to change the world but… Giving that reason seems so pretentious, especially when you’re talking in front of a war veteran. So…

            “I… Don’t know, Lieutenant.”

            “You don’t know?”

            “Yes… I’m not really sure.”


The Lieutenant seems to be contemplating my answer. That’s odd, I wonder is it because she thinks I’m too shallow…

But enough of that thought. I should just focus on my duty for now. I am her personal maid after all.


The Commonwealth of Lividia consists of several nations banding together under a greater good. One of these nations, the Republic of Galcia, has a particularly strong theatrical culture. As such, like many other girls born here, being an actress was my all-time dream. The performances led me under the enchanted impression of that glamorous theatrical life, the exciting adventure these stars led, and the endless possibilities should I join them.

But then the war happened, and the rest was history. Everyone was affected, even the cinema world. Strong young actors were sent to the front, their faces plastered all over recruitment posters. It got so bad at one point that they started conscripting people. I fortunately was not old enough for conscription at the time. Meanwhile, father was an engineer, and mother was a nurse. So all of our family was spared from the horrendous combat on the front.

From time to time. Faces of courageous soldiers would grace the headlines. Brave men and women who have done valiant deeds are named Heroes of the Commonwealth. Whilst most featured are men, there is this one time when the face of a young girl made it into the headline. Her face was solemn and calm, beautiful and serene. It was so unlike the previous individuals. Although the black and white ink made me unable to discern her features. As far as I remember, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the lieutenant.

Our first meeting won’t come until after the end of the war. I was helping out at a newly established aid centre. Handing out aid cheques behind the counter to veterans who just came back from the war. The one thing that broke my conception when I heard the word ‘veteran’ was the age range of the people involved. Before this, I thought they all would be grizzled middle aged men with scary looks. But the truth was far from that. Most of the people lining up were young boys. Many of them haven’t even reached their twenties. Some even looked to be around my age. And to think that these boys are war veterans…

At the end of the day, the officer in charge of the aid centre, Mr. Hiigata, summoned me. Quite a surprise, I couldn’t think of a reason as to why a high-ranking officer such as him would summon a lowly service volunteer such as me. When I came to his office, he revealed his intention

“Theresa Lonnete. From today on, you will be relegated to be the personal maid of a certain distinguished individual. Here’s your work order.” He said, handing out a map consisting of two letters.

“A maid? Me?” I questioned.

“Yes, we have thoroughly reviewed your experience and personal history, and concluded that you would be the best person for this job.”He said, still in that monotone yet commanding tone of a military man.

“Do you have any-” before he finishes, Mr. Hiigata gets a phone call and excused himself. I suppose he didn’t expect the discipline and the stiffness of a soldier from a civilian volunteer like me. So that’s why he tolerated my questioning tone. And honestly, I am quite indifferent about this whole ordeal. As long as I can help, I’ll do it.

Being a maid though, I’ve only seen them in cinemas and theatre. As far as I know, their job was to take care of things that their master found too menial to do themselves, such as cleaning up the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen, the toilet, the bedroom, the clothes, the garden, etc, etc… Oh, and some cooking, I guess.

A jolt coursed through my mind. If I recall correctly, two famous Galcian actors that are serving on the front-line hail from our city. I remember gasping at the thought that maybe I’ll be the personal maid of one of these actors, Jonathan Paul or Charles Le Blanc. My adventurous mind delved deeper into my adolescent fantasy, stuff that I’m too embarrassed to recall now. Fortunately, before I lost myself, Mr. Hiigata came back from the phone to address me.

“By the way, I think I should mention that this distinguished person is a female. 1st Lieutenant Caulia Cornellia Cromwell, hero of the commonwealth, recipient of the medal of honour and plaques d’honneur. Rejoice at this great opportunity”

“Oh… Yes, sir.” I said, trying to hold back my disappointment.

Curses. I remember thinking. There goes my teenage fantasy. Mind you, at that point, I still dreamed of becoming an actress one day. So I genuinely felt like that was a missed opportunity.

So anyways, after that, he explained some details of the work that I’ll be doing. In short, I was told to stay at this veteran’s house and help her with all sorts of things until she could at least settle down properly. They hid a lot of details in that vague statement. For example, it is not clear how long it would take for her to ‘settle down properly’. And Mr. Hiigata personally apologised for the sudden assignment, but he promised to give further support should I need it. Wow, suddenly I feel like some important person to have this high-ranking officer saying that to me.  Mr. Hiigata told me to go to a certain room where my veteran would be waiting. He said he had to take care of some stuff before going in there himself, so, went in there I did.

After walking for some minutes, I found the room Mr. Hiigata mentioned. Everything else in that bombed out bunker looked like it had been torched in flame except for that certain room. It looked brand new, as if they had just renovated it.

Opening the door to the room I found the veteran that was waiting for me… I think. Because I genuinely thought that I got the wrong room. There, besides the rows of rows of empty chairs, I saw a girl sitting on a wheelchair. She’s pretty, really pretty. She somewhat looked to be around my age. Her long, straight white hair fluttered as she looked at me, her lavender eyes gleaming like amethyst. Her pale skin seemed to glow like that of a beautiful candle as well. The main cause of my assumption was her uniform, or rather lack of. She was wearing a pure white sleeveless dress, and she was quite slim. There’s no way this is the veteran I’m supposed to be serving right? She looked like any other Galcian girl! I bet if she went for an audition, she could even feature in a drama if she tried.

Well, that line of thought only lasted for less than a minute. For then I realise one glaring sign that she is, indeed, the veteran.

Which is her arm. Or rather… her lack thereof. And then a realisation dawned on me

            Oh… So that’s why they wanted a maid…

No wonder the military out of all suddenly wanted to have a maid. It wasn’t for vanity, it was necessary.

She locked eyes with me, seemingly examining me from top to bottom.

“Can I… help you?” She asked.

“A-ah. Are you Lieutenant…” Lieutenant… She’s a Lieutenant, right? I scrambled the documents given to me as I didn’t memorise her name. “Uhh, 1st Lieutenant Caulia?”

I don’t know much about military ranks and stuff, but aren’t Lieutenants kind of a deal? My uncle who served in the previous war only ends up as a sergeant. So you’re telling me this young and pretty girl outranks my uncle? A comical image of my uncle, a tall 185 cm man with a big moustache, being ordered around by her with a whip in hand pops up in my mind, though only for a brief moment.

“Yes, that’s my name. And rank, I suppose.”

And her voice was… very soft. Not what I imagine how a veteran would sound like… or looked like at all for that matter.

“I’m Theresa Lonnete. A volunteer for the veteran aid service. From today on, I will be serving as your maid.”

“I see.”

My first impression of the Lieutenant was a combination of disbelief and amazement. They said she was a hero of some sort, so that’s impressive. And to think someone like this earned that distinguishment.  Add to the fact that she doesn’t seems to be that much older than me.

The door opened, and then Mr. Hiigata came in. He walked in strong strides, and stopped in front of the veteran,  giving her a salute before bowing deeply towards her.

“Lieutenant Caulia, ma’am. Your car has arrived.”

“Thankyou Hiigata.”

Meanwhile, I was standing in the corner of the room, perplexed. They sent a car to escort this girl? It is well known that cars are a luxury that only a select few are privileged to, so she really is an important person. Though looking back, my apparent surprise at this was caused by my overexposure to the theatrical world, and me in my ignorance putting the limits of my vision as the limits of the world. I didn’t account for the fact that the wealth of all the cinema stars combined couldn’t probably hold a candle to the military and its vast budget.

And then there’s Mr. Hiigata’s reaction upon meeting with the Lieutenant. I recognized his gesture, it’s oriental in origin. A gesture to convey an expression of great respect and honour towards a certain someone. Mr. Hiigata was a Captain, I don’t really know how far from a Lieutenant that is, but an officer bowing humbly like that towards someone of a lower rank could only mean one thing. Lieutenant Caulia really is a respected individual in the military.

“Hiigata. Raise your head. You don’t have to bow to me like that.”

I could see Mr. Hiigata visibly clenching his fist. And continued bowing anyway. Meanwhile Lieutenant Caulia looked at him with pity in her eyes.

Aaah, the tension in the air between these two, the awkward gesture of the man, the understanding and forgiving look of the woman. I’ve seen enough theatrical drama to know that these two  have some sort of history between them. Though I obviously dared not to question it, my mind went through a lot of assumptions, which includes whether they were lovers or childhood friends. Then I quickly decided that it was best not to dwell on it, and I sure glad I did. I later learned that wasn’t the case. What I didn’t know at the time was that the real horrors of war have no sympathy for storybook romance to blossom.

Several men came into the room. Escorts, I believe. They stopped to salute the Lieutenant before helping in bringing her baggage to the car. One of them went to push her wheelchair, and then they exited the room. Mr. Hiigata was bowing through all of that, and stood up only after Lt. Caulia had left.

            “Ms. Theresa, you should go in the car with her.”

            “E-eh? Someone like me?”

            “Yes, you’re going to be helping her from now on after all.”

Well, riding in a car was one of the things I had in my list of things I wanted to do before I die. It’s funny how unceremoniously that one was crossed off.

            “Yes sir.”

            “Please take good care of her, and…”


Ooh, here it is, here it is, what would it be? the reluctant third party confession? Or…

            “No, nevermind. Goodluck with your duty.

            “Oh, Yes sir. And thank you”

Ah, it’s the boring alternative. Oh well, I guess military men are still men after all.

When I went out to join the escort, I saw the men helping her out of the wheelchair to get into the car. A four wheeled osvo sedan, a luxury brand. It really does seem like a scene out of a movie. I wanted to help, but everything seems to be handled pretty well. So, one of the men told me to get in the car instead.

The two men outside closed the door and made gestures that everything was ready to go. The driver then gently pressed the pedal, and the car started to move. In the rear-view mirror, I could see the two men from before standing upright, and giving us a salute. their figure gradually disappeared as we drove further.

I can’t believe all of that just happened in such a short amount of time. This morning, I worked behind the receptionist desk, and now, I’m riding in a luxury car with a supposedly very important person. Well, it’s true that the context of this happening came from the military, instead of the cinema world. But It all still felt like a dream regardless. I tried to compose myself by twirling my finger around my side hair.

The Lieutenant seems to notice this. And she giggled.

            “Are you nervous?”

            “Eh? Uh, um, I’m, yes, not really, uh yes. I mean, no.” I said, giving my best stern military-like impression. Though obviously my haywire of a brain failed horribly in the grammar department.

            “Ahahaa You’re nervous.”

            “A-ah… uh… yeah…”

She leaned in closer to me. Well, she tried to, but…

            “Ow ow oww…ouch.”

            “L-Lieutenant?! Are you okay?”

 … she seems to hurt her back or something when she tries to do that. So instead, she gestured for me to scoot closer to her. So, I did.

            “I used to do that too. During the war.”

            “You used to… do what?”

            “That thing you’re doing with your hair. Twirling it around in your finger. It’s oddly calming, isn’t it?”

            “Y-yes… So you get nervous too, Lieutenant?”

            “It’s Caulia. You can just call me Lia.”

            “I… see…”

“Of course, I get nervous. I too, am just a girl, after all. When I was just a recruit, I used to twirl my hair in my fingers all the time. Well, it’s quite unfortunate that I can’t do that anymore though. “

“Ah, uh… I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

She nudged me in the shoulder a little. And now that I’m closer to her, she leaned into my ear.

“You see. I don’t really care much for all of that honours and stuff. They’re just a big boogus. So please, you don’t need to be nervous around me, okay?”

I could feel my cheeks burning up a little bit. The Lieutenant… She really is just like any other girl! She does not give off any intimidating aura like Mr. Hiigata did, and she made an active effort to make herself as approachable as possible.

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

She smiled, and I smiled as well.

The car was still moving. The Lieutenant stared out the window. She seemed to be watching the world pass us by. Seeing her, I couldn’t help but wonder how someone like her became the hero that everybody respected. What’s her story? If she’s just another girl like she said, how did it end up like this?

I then heard the lieutenant start to hum a tune. A traditional Galcian folk song, I found myself listening to it throughout the journey…


I helped her sit in the chair I prepared for dinner. A small roasted chicken breast with a side of asparagus soup sits atop the table. She groaned in pain several times during the process… of sitting down. The sight somewhat reminded me of my late grandmother…

            “Ugh… ow…”

            “A-are you okay, Lieutenant?”

            “Well what do you think? Broken ribs with fractured hips. Arms are gone and so are my bone. Hey, that rhymes.”


            “Ahahaha, sorry, I couldn’t help it… Anyways, this looks and smells really good.”

            “I’m glad you think so. Here, let me help you.”

            “Thanks, If you would kindly.”

I stood closely beside her and grabbed a fork and a knife to first cut off the chicken, and then gently shove it into her mouth.

            “Mmm, it tastes good too” she said as she munched on it.

Well, I always take it as a compliment. But after learning that the Lieutenant mostly survived on a diet of rock-hard K-brod (military bread) and dry sardines during most of the war, I don’t know how I should feel about her compliment. I’ll keep it on the positive end for now.

Little by little, the plate starts emptying until all of the chicken breast is gone. But the Lieutenant has a habit of making me scrape off everything that’s on the plate until there’s absolutely nothing left. It wasn’t because of anything. She told me before that her battalion got trapped and encircled in the city of Pravois. The ensuing 8-month long siege was brutal, and a lot of people died of starvation. The effect was so profound that she refused to leave anything to waste on the plate, years after the siege was over.

            “I’ll be moving on to the soup now.”I said to her. As I grabbed a spoon and slowly fed it to her. The same thing happened with the soup, it’s just that since it’s impossible to scrape off the tiny bit of liquid with a spoon, she asked me to finish it instead.

            “Thank you for the meal, Lonnete. That was delicious.”

            “No problem Lieutenant. I’m here to help you.”

I’m glad I managed to feed her properly without messing up. My eyes were quite heavy, so I was afraid I might not be able to do my duty properly. Nevertheless, after helping her drink a glass of water, I went ahead to go clean the dishes in the kitchen right beside the dining room. The Lieutenant is still sitting there, watching me. Well, of course she would. She couldn’t do anything on her own after all.

I remember occasionally yawning as I wiped the dishes. And after some moment of silence, she decided to start a conversation.

            “ Hey, Lonnete. You said you’re only three years younger than me, right? So, you were in middle school when the war started?”

            “Yes Lieutenant. I went to Yelton Spring Middle school, to be exact”

            “I see… How was it before? Do you have friends?”

Huh, that’s new. And I don’t know how I feel about talking about my school life to a famed war hero like her. But she… Right now, she really does sound like a senior… Or rather, a big sister to me. So I obliged.

            “Yes, I made a lot of friends at school, everybody was into the theatre scene at the time, and we usually went out to watch the cinema at weekend!” I said. Recounting those days fondly.

            “That sounds fun.”

            “Yes it was. It might sound dumb, but at the end of the movies, we would rate all the top male actors by how hot they look. Looking back, we didn’t really pay attention to the movies or plot whatsoever, only the males.”

            “Ahaha. That’s fine. As long as you’re having fun… How are your friends nowadays? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?”

            “Oh, I did write to some of them. Though I haven’t got the opportunity to meet up as I’m…” I found myself choking on my sentence, trying to rearrange the words in my mind so that I wouldn’t hurt the Lieutenant’s feelings. “I’m… I didn’t have the time to… There weren’t any interesting movies in the cinema recently anyways.” Yes, yes, shifting the blame to the cinema should do.

            “I see…” The lieutenant said, her voice now weaker than before. Another silence followed before it was revealed that my attempt was not successful.

            “You know… I never really had any friends when I was at school.” She started.


            “Back then, I was too shy to even look at someone in the eyes. I would never have been able to talk to someone the way I’m talking to you right now. Heh, war has a way to make you grow up, I guess.”


Even though I’m looking at the dishes right now, I can feel her letting out a sigh.

            “And that’s why, I wanted to apologise to you right now.”


            “Because I was thinking of relieving you of your maid duty.”


Living with the Lieutenant reminded me of the time when I helped mom in the hospital during the war. Especially working with elderly people.

My daily routine is as follows. I would wake up at dawn to do some cleaning on the house, then I would wake the Lieutenant up and prepare her breakfast, helping her eat by spoon feeding her. After that, I would help her bathe after I prepared some warm water for her. Also, this is when I realised that she is a distinguished veteran for a reason. Because of her condition, I would have to do all the dressing up for her. And when I undressed her, her bare body revealed that there’s not a single part of her that has not been untouched by scars of all kind. Burn marks, bullet wounds, slashing marks, stab wounds, blunt trauma… It’s hard to believe such a beautiful body had to go through so much…

After that, the daytime routine varies from day to day. Sometimes, I would help the lieutenant do some activities at home, such as helping her when she wanted to read a book. Another day, I would have to shop for some groceries on her stead. And usually on the weekend, I take the Lieutenant out for a walk.

I did some more cleaning entering the evening. After preparing dinner and helping the lieutenant with that, I went to prepare yet another warm bath for her. Then after that, it’s several hours of free time for myself, before I helped the Lieutenant to bed. Rinse and repeat. Ah… I should also mention that the Lieutenant occasionally smoked some cigarette, so I have to help her with that. I don’t know what is it with soldiers and smoking, I always thought it’s just a men thing, but it seems a delicate girl like her would also be affected by war huh…

 I have more leeway with the way I do my work right now though. For example, in my work order, Mr. Hiigata mentioned that, even though the Lieutenant is mostly not picky about food, it is written that I should avoid anything that contains peanuts because of her allergies. outside of that, I was given free reign to cook whatever I saw fit for her breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And no matter what I came up with, the Lieutenant always praised me for it, she never left anything on the plate once she’s done.

It is also mentioned that I should take the Lieutenant out for a walk at least twice a week. Should I wish to take her out on a walk in the city, he left me a list of contacts that can help us be our concierge for the day. Wow, I thought, I suddenly feel like I’m some sort of an important person. Well I mean, I know that the Lieutenant is the star here, but being addressed with honorifics such as “Ma’am” or “My lady” by men that sounds much older than you got me thinking way over my head. After waiting for some 10-20 minutes, a car would arrive by our house, it was almost romantic in nature. Well, granted the driver is usually some burly man in military uniform, as opposed to the handsome concierge in perfumed fine suit, but still, can’t be picky.

And I won’t lie. I found myself taking advantage of this sometimes, with the Lieutenant’s agreement of course. One example that I couldn’t forget was this one time when the cinema was airing a brand new movie featuring some of the actors that just got back home from the war. I asked the Lieutenant whether she wanted to see it or not, and she said, in her words, ‘yeah, sure.’ So, after dressing her up in a cute shirtwaist white dress, we decided to go.

It was a romantic movie about a boy and a girl who were childhood friends but were separated and had to fight each other when they served as soldiers for opposing nations. I for one am not much for war stories, but the fact that it was starred by Le Blanc, and is a romance movie made me excited to watch this. And then, the Lieutenant just had to drop a bombshell on me.

            “Ah, you said it was starred by Le Blanc? Charles Le Blanc? Master Sergeant? I know him, he served on the southern front.”

            “Waah, you knew him Lieutenant?”

            “Yeah, we fought together during Operation Stonebreaker against the Khaganate.”

            “What was he like?”

            “He was brave, A lot of people rallied behind him, oh and-” The Lieutenant proceeded to tell me bits and pieces about the actor that I had held in high regard throughout my life.

            “Roger that! I shall treasure this knowledge deeply in my vault of memories!”

She laughed at my seemingly exaggerated reaction.

            “Still, you said he was a Sergeant? Like my uncle huh. But that means you outrank him! That’s awesome, Lieutenant!”

            “Oh yes, I did outrank him. He must obey whatever orders I give out when we meet again.”

            “Can you order him to give me an autograph?”

            “Consider it done.”

We laughed heartily after that. Right on time for our ride to arrive. Which, for some reason, took longer than usual. It doesn’t matter, having this luxury was more than welcome for me, and I’m sure the Lieutenant won’t mind.

However, once we arrived at the cinema, things started to get strange. After getting out of the car and helping the Lieutenant out to her wheelchair, I found that the cinema staff had seemingly expected our arrival. They greeted us kindly on a red carpet and asked what movie we would like to see today. I looked at the Lieutenant and she shrugged, giving me the look that says ‘I have no idea.’

            “I would like to buy two tickets to see dandelions across the snow please.”

            “There’s no need, we will immediately make some seats available for you two.”

Huh? Huh? Huh? What is this? It feels like we were being treated as some sort of VIP out of a sudden. They sent some guards to escort us into the theatre, and even offered some free snacks and drinks for us. Inside the cinema, I could feel people’s eyes on us, somehow, we temporarily became the centre of attention. I mean, I’ve always dreamt of being chased by paparazzi and people asking for my autographs when I grew up to be a popular actress. But this whole ordeal just feels strange to me. I looked at the Lieutenant and I can see that she’s visibly uncomfortable with all the attention she’s getting right now. I’m starting to regret suggesting we go to the cinema now…

Inside the theatre, I found that they had reserved an entire row just for the two of us! Not only that, it’s also the middle row where you’ll get the best viewing experience too. Oh they definitely knew we were coming, was the military behind it? I started thinking that the reason our ride took longer to arrive was because the military contacted the cinema to inform them of our arrival. While I personally don’t mind this privilege, looking at how uncomfortable Lieutenant Caulia is throughout this whole ordeal, I felt bad. Add to the fact that having to make her take a seat on the middle row would only cause more pain for her. Since the cinema entrance was located near the top row of the seat, with stairs leading down to each seat row, I was planning to just order a seat near the top aisle for the Lieutenant’s sake.

 I informed the cinema staff of this, and they profusely apologised. They gave us the entire middle top row instead. I don’t know how much work they had to put into it, but after all is said and done, the guards left us alone, and people started filling the room. The movie then begins, the booming of loudspeakers, the rattling sound of the film projector, this reminds me of the time when I used to go to the cinema with my friends every weekend. A thought crossed my mind, the thought that maybe I’m friends with the Lieutenant now. I mean, we’ve done a lot of things together, and she’s pretty fun to be around with. I dismissed that idea shortly after though, as I realised right now, I’m serving as her maid, and nothing more. I mentally slapped myself for not knowing my place. I was interrupted midway by a finely dressed cinema staff, delivering our food and drinks. I gently offered it to the Lieutenant of course, and fed it to her.

Occasionally, I would steal glances at the Lieutenant. The cinema is dark but I could see her face and her reaction towards it. She was… blank. It was just that, I couldn’t describe her expression other than blank. Her eyes were empty and her lips were parted. She stared at the widescreen as if she was staring at a blank canvas, as if she was looking at something else. This caused me to not be able to focus on the movie, I was worried for her. Did she not like being in the cinema? Did she not enjoy the movie? I shouldn’t have suggested that we go here, I wonder whether she’ll be angry at me or not…

And before I knew it, the credit started rolling, and the movie ended. I didn’t pay much attention to it outside the basic plot of the story. Even though the actor that starred it is literally my idol, the Lieutenant’s well-being took precedence. I saw that some people stood up and started leaving the theatre. I did the same and started to try to help the Lieutenant up. That is, until, a cinema staff appeared in front of the theatre stage, and addressed us.

            “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for visiting us to watch the dandelions across the snow. Now, we have an announcement to make. For that, I humbly ask for you all to remain seated.” Some people heeded the announcement and sat back down, some ignored and left anyway. Nevertheless, the staff continued. “We are honoured to announce that this replaying of the movie ‘Dandelions across the snow’ is graced by the presence of two very special guests, who are currently among the audience now.”

Wait a minute…

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, The actor that plays the character Michel, and the nominee of the Globus Aurora prize for best acting this year. Charles Le Blanc!”

Back then. I remember thinking that it was all a dream. I remember thinking that this is too good to be true. I remember pinching myself several times to confirm that it was, indeed, not a dream. Claps and whistling and all sorts of fanfares could be heard across the entire cinema. People outside of that theatre room could be seen crowding on the entrance to get a glimpse of the national star. I remember seeing the figure of the idol I’ve only seen in movies and interviews on the tele, now walking in person towards the stage.

If it were me prior to the war, I probably would have joined in the crowds and screamed my lungs out, desperately trying to get his attention. But somehow, I don’t really have a desire to do that right now. I felt that my sense of responsibility towards the Lieutenant had caused me to be more composed compared to the other girls in the theatre room, who had splendidly done that in my place.

Speaking of the Lieutenant…

I took a glance at her and saw that her expression still hasn’t changed for the better. No, in fact, it’s gotten worse. She’s obviously looking downcast, staring down at the theatre chair.

            “Lieutenant, are you alright?”

I was so focused on her that I didn’t pay attention to whatever Le Blanc was saying, untill…

“… As for the reason for my presence on this very special occasion. I would like to thank one of my fellow compatriots, a brave soldier who served alongside me in the war and fought bravely for the freedom of our people. Her struggle inspires us all to strive for the better, and to be thankful that heroes such as her exist as a bastion of justice. Ladies and gentlemen, please give applause to the hero of the Commonwealth, holder of the medal of honour, 1st Lieutenant Caulia Cornellia Cromwell.”

            “heeeh?!” So, when they say they have two very special people in attendance, does that mean that one of them is… The Lieutenant?

I glanced my head back and forth between the Lieutenant and Le Blanc. He was raising one hand towards her, directing all attention our way. A spotlight shone down on her, putting her slender figure in full display. A loud applause follows, I could hear some people whispering amongst themselves. Something along the lines of ‘that girl is a vet?’ ‘She’s so young’ ‘She look younger than my daughter’ etc, etc.

I would’ve screamed in joy had it been me before the war that stood beside her right now. I would’ve joined in the wild fanfare the crowds were giving her. I would have been happy, had it not for her desolate and empty eyes, staring at her supposed junior down there. I heard Le Blanc mentioning some more of her achievements to the crowds as he approached us. And I found myself at a loss of what to do.

Then I realised that this is what probably happened behind the scenes after I called in our concierge. They knew Le Blanc served in the military, and would probably respond to their summons. They knew He served alongside the Lieutenant. But why… Why is the Lieutenant not responding to any of this? Why does she look so empty and hollow?

            “Lieutenant Caulia, ma’am, it’s good to see you.”

Without me noticing it. Le Blanc seemingly appeared all of a sudden besides us. He stood upright with a fine salute towards the Lieutenant. I jolted back, and slightly bowed to him.

            “Hello Charlie. How have you been?” She replied.

            “Oh, I’ve been fine.”

I saw him fell down on her knees, like how those princes from storybooks would do when they were about to meet their princess. I heard some people in the audience gasping, some squealed, some screamed in high pitch. No doubt wishing that it was them instead. Then, I saw Le Blanc raise one of his hands, grabbed the Lieutenant’s hand, and kissed it. The audience burst into cheers, and cameras started flashing all over the theatre…

Yeah right, at least that’s what I think would’ve happened had things were quite different. Sorry. Let me rephrase it.

Then, I saw Le Blanc raise one of his hands, grabbing the air in the area around what was supposed to be the Lieutenant’s hands, if she had any. And kissed his own hands as a result. An awkward silence followed between the two. He had this confused look at first, until he gets the full picture of reality. For a split second, I could’ve sworn I saw his expression change into that of shock as he stood up and took a few steps back. Well, being the professional that he is, he immediately reverted back to the movie star persona in no time.

It appears he did not know the full extent of what the Lieutenant had gone through. What was that all about? Did he not notice that the Lieutenant without arms? Was he not paying attention to her at all? I can’t believe I’m writing this critique towards my own idol, but right now, Lieutenant Caulia far outweighs Le Blanc in the scale of people I actually cared about. And what he did to her was… quite disrespectful. Does he think that because he’s a world-famous actor, he could do whatever he wants? The Lieutenant is a hero, and she’s your superior at that, and this is how you treat her?

            “Charlie… Hiigata sets you up for this, doesn’t he?”

This time, I could see the famous world actor visibly nervous as she said that.

            “Caulia, listen, I’m-”

            “It’s okay Charlie. It’s not your fault.”

When I glanced at the Lieutenant again, I could see her eyes were almost like a dead fish. Empty like the void. I do not know what happened between these people in the war, what I do know is that the Lieutenant is hurting right now. World famous actor or not, I don’t care if he’s hurting her. So I took it upon myself to do something.

I gently tapped Le Blanc’s shoulder. Something I never imagined I would get to do. He turned to look at me with a confused expression.

            “I’m sorry to interrupt. I am Theresa Lonnete, Lieutenant Caulia’s personal maid. It is my duty to look out for her wellbeing. And it seems that the Lieutenant is not feeling well at the moment. So, in the best interest of her health, I will be taking her out of here. Thank you for your hospitality” I said, giving out my best stiff and straight-to-the-point impression of a military man that I’ve been practising in my mind. I’d say that it came out well, as both Le Blanc and the Lieutenant did not object to my suggestion.

            “Come here, Lieutenant, let me help you up.”

            “Thank you. Lonnete.”

After gently putting her back in the wheelchair. I excused myself from Le Blanc, and walked out of the theater room. The crowds instinctively make way for the two of us. I could hear more clapping and cheers as we left the room.

            “Wait! Ms. Theresa, was it?” I could hear Le Blanc calling out from behind me.


            “Please, please take care of the Lieutenant for me!” He said, bowing in the same fashion as Mr.Hiigata did. I could hear some people gasping at this.

            “Yes, gladly. And thank you for your service. Mr. Le Blanc. I have always been a fan of your work.” I said, bowing slightly before moving to our car.

After our car had moved a good distance away from the theatre. I took it upon myself to face the lieutenant, and prepared to apologize.

“Lieutenant, s-sorry about that…”

“Hmm? About what?”

“About what just happened in the theatre… You don’t seem to enjoy it at all.”

“What are you talking about? I did enjoy that movie.”


“How Michel fought tooth and nail to see his childhood lover, only to find out that Misha was, indeed, the phantom witch that had been killing all his comrades. And the conclusion of the movie was beautiful. Instead of finishing her off after putting her down, he carried her back, and faked both his and her death so that he could finally live with her.”

“W-wha?! So you were paying attention after all?!”

            “Hmm? Of course, I do. That’s what you’re supposed to do in a theatre right?”

            “Ah, ahahah, ahahaha… yes, of course…” And here I was, failing to pay any attention because I was worried about you

            “Um, um…” I tried to come up with something from the movie to talk about to the Lieutenant, and what I ended up coming up with was… “What about you, Lieutenant? Do you ever have crushes or lovers like that?”


            “Eh… uh” WWWhat the hell was I thinking, prying into her personal life like that?! 

I did all kinds of violent things towards my head mentally, punishing myself for being so stupid and insensitive. Until…

            “Hmm, yeah, I do.”

            “Wah! You do?! Can you tell me more about that?” I jumped towards her excitedly. Abandoning the self-discipline that I have strictly drilled into myself for months now.

            “Ahah, ahahahaha… So you’re into this kind of thing huh, Lonnete.”

            “Well, romance is just the best after all. Everything’s better with a little bit of love!”

            “Umm, my ‘romance’ story is probably not that exciting.”

            “Aww, are you shy now, Lieutenant? Come on, you have to tell me!”

            “Mmm, okay. His name was Ferdinand Miguel. A friend from high school.”

            “Waah, high school friend turned lover in war! How did your love blossom? Did he jump out to save you from hordes of enemies? Protected you from harm?”

            “Ah, uhh… It’s actually quite the opposite…”


            “His squad was a bit overextended towards the frontline… There was an enemy sniper somewhere in the front. The sniper picked off members of his squad one by one.”

            “Uh, huh…”

            “I just happened to be scouting nearby and witnessed what happened, so I, uhm, shot the enemy sniper… Just in time to see him running towards me, scared.”

            “W-wah… He’s…” A total loser…

            “Back in the base, he confessed his love for me, I think. But honestly, I think he was just scared and grateful, and I understand that. So I accepted it without thinking much about it.”

            Waah, even the Lieutenant accepted his confession out of pity… yeap, a total loser… But wait. That got me thinking…

            “I see… But, what happened to him? Did he finally see the disparity between you and him, and finally relinquished his love of you to someone more worthy?”

            “What? No, its nothing like that.”

            “Uh huh, he’s quite brave to think that he’s worthy of you, so what happened then?”

            “Um, he was transferred to army group centre as part of Operation thunder cross. I still received some letters from him from time to time… Until one day, the letters just stopped.”


“I think he died when thunder cross fell apart when the Empire counter attacked, and army group centre almost got annihilated in the months that followed.”

“O- oh… I see…”

Silence dawned between the two of us. That’s it? That’s the whole story? Oh wow. Military bureaucracy and real war don’t care at all about plot structures and romantic tension huh. Wait until book critiques reviewed this plot… Well but then again, what happened was a very real war. I shouldn’t compare them to cheesy cinema love stories.

            “Ah, yeah. Now that I tried to remember it again. I do recall seeing his body. Well, what was left of it, he was being loaded into a body bag.”


            “It was… near unrecognizable. When the corpses of the casualties from thunder cross were brought back. I remember seeing rows of rows of bodies being prepared, and loaded into a body bag…”

            “Uh… Lieutenant…”

            “I didn’t know it was him at first, there were soo many bodies and they all looked the same, some missing limbs, some disfigured faces, all of them had black charred skin and rotting flesh… That is until I saw the emerald ring on his blackened, rotting pinky finger that he always carried, I remember him saying that it was an heirloom from his mom, I think. “

At this point, I can see that the Lieutenant is starting to visibly shake. I grabbed her shoulder to calm her down.

            “Or was it from his father…?”

            “L-Lieutenant, it’s okay, you can stop.”

            “Ah… I’m sorry.

Critiques be damned. I felt stupid for having the previous line of thought. What was I thinking, this is real war. People died, and I compared it to some stupid Galcian pop movies? I felt guilty towards the Lieutenant for thinking that way.

            “No no no, I’m sorry… I’m sorry for forcing you to recall such a horrible experience.”

            “It’s alright. What happened, happened.”

And on that poignant note, our conversation ended abruptly


After the Lieutenant said that, my eyes went wide awake. Relieveing me from my maid duty… that means she’s… firing me, isn’t she? I dropped the plate I was washing. And turned to face the Lieutenant.

“What? But why?” I asked, quite in disbelief.

            “As I’ve said, I was thinking of relieving you of your maid duty. That means you won’t have to take care of me anymore.” she replied.

I turned the faucet in the sink off.

            “But… but why? Have I offended you in any way? Ah, well, now that I think of it, I might have done that several times without knowing. And if I did, I’m truly sorry, I never meant any of it…”

            “No… no, it’s not that…”

            “Then why? Are you not satisfied with my overall performance? I’m… I’m sorry that I’m not that strong, and caused you pain every time I tried to help you out. But, but I’ll work harder to be better, I promise!”

            “You see, that’s the problem.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Lonnete, I told you before that I didn’t have any friends back when I was your age, yes? I was too absorbed in my love for art. And I often found myself alone, sketching, painting… That’s the only thing I did throughout my school years besides the basic obligation. I missed out on a lot of things in my youth… Bah, I said that, as if I’m over forty or something, even though I just entered my twentieth year. But still, the fact remains that my late teenage years was a sad one. I don’t have any friends, I’m always lonely, and then the war took everything, including my ability to paint.”

            “Lieutenant, then why…”

            “I don’t want the same thing to happen to you, you know… You devoted all the time you have in taking care of me, I… I don’t want to take all of your precious time away from you… When was the last time you talked with your friends? When was the last time you hang out with them?  When was the last time you visited your family? As far as I’m concerned, you were always here with me.”

When she says it like that, I just realized that it is true. It’s true that I’ve only been thinking of her in the past few months. I didn’t have much room for anything else, I actually hadn’t written any letters to my friend for more than three weeks. And I haven’t read the letters my parents sent to me yet. But… for some reason, I didn’t feel burdened at all. The fact that I’ve forgotten to do anything else but to take care of her… Would you be thinking of doing something else when you like doing what you’re currently doing? I don’t think so.

            “You could’ve spent your time doing anything else. Talking with your parents, hanging out with your friends. Pursuing the theatre life like you always wanted to. But no, no. Instead of that, you were stuck here, taking care of a troublesome big baby.”

            “Lieutenant, don’t say that, that’s not true…”

            “Again, I’m sorry, Lonnete… To tell you the truth, it is me who asked them to send me someone around my age to be my helper.”

            “I-is that true? You can do that?”

            “The fact that you’re here is proof of that.”

I’m not really sure what to think of that. Well, looking back, my work order does seem rather sudden without any prior notice. So that was her doing.

I went silent, and look down to see the palm of my hands. It’s quite wrinkly and rugged, either as a result of handling the broom too much, or having too much contact with cleaning agent. I remembered when I used to take care of my nail in my school year, every day, I would spend some time polishing it. I no longer have any time to do that now.

Then I stared at my reflection on the glass cabinet mirror. I could see a pair of noticeable eyebags forming underneath my eyes. Huh, weird, since when do I have these. I remember during my school years I’ve always taken extra care of my skin, especially of my face. Back then I would hunt the market for any kind of cosmetic products with my friends.

            “See, Lonnete… you’re starting to lose sight of what you wanted. I asked you why you wanted to be an actress, and yet you couldn’t answer me.”

            “No… Lieutenant, that’s different, because… because…”


            “Because my reason was so shallow that I’m too ashamed to say it out loud… Especially in front of someone like you…”

            “You are stressed out, Lonnete.” The Lieutenant said with a sigh, pulling my attention back to her again. “And that’s why, for your sake. I will be relieving you.”

Me? Stressed out? Is that for real?

My mind trailed for somewhere, I couldn’t be stressed out, could I? After all, I’m just a maid. I couldn’t even begin to compare to the Lieutenant.

I couldn’t. Not after I realise how much pain she’s been holding on to herself

Not after what happened yesterday at the cemetery…


            “… Aand done. Phew, I must say, you look quite dashing in your uniform, Lieutenant. If you were a boy, I probably would have fallen for you Lieutenant! Hehe.” I said, as I finished wrapping the officer tie on the Lieutenant’s uniform.

“Geez, stop making unfunny jokes like that Lonnete.” The Lieutenant said that, but I can sense her being flustered.

 I looked at the mirror and saw the figure of that gentle girl being wrapped in all sorts of military regalia. A royal blue uniform that has the same colour as the flag of the commonwealth, laced with all sorts of medals and insignias. Most notable is the medal of honour, hanging on her left chest. Supposedly it was a medal handed only to those who have accomplished the greatest of deeds, I heard there’s only twelve recipients in the entire Commonwealth military. Army, navy, and air force combined, which makes the Lieutenant all the more awesome in my eyes.

            “And besides, I never really got much chance of using this uniform. I actually spent most of the war as a corporal, and only got promoted to lieutenant near the end of the war.”

            “Hee, Is that so… Well, regardless of that, it looks good on you!”

            “Well… Thank you, I’m glad you think so.”

            “Ehm, but are you sure you wanted to wear that for today? I mean, the victory parade is only four days away. Shouldn’t we save it for that?”

A week before, several men from the military came over to our house. They wish to inform the Lieutenant that the military is going to hold a victory parade in the capital city, Aronessa, to celebrate the first anniversary of the end of the war. And since she was one of the few recipients of the medal of honour that are still alive, they wished that she could attend and take part in the parade. I raised a point regarding the Lieutenant’s condition, on how she most likely won’t be able to walk, let alone march. But they assured me that they will accommodate her to the best of their abilities.

            “Yes, I’m certain. I will be visiting all of my friends after all. I need to make sure that I dress up properly”

            “Visiting your friends…”

The Lieutenant did say that. But she also mentioned that we will be visiting the monument of heroes. A war memorial dedicated to those who gave up their life in the war. If I recall correctly, a vast burial ground surrounds that memorial. It wasn’t hard to put two to two together.

The ride towards the memorial was quiet.  I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the Lieutenant’s friends. She never really told me of her war stories in detail, only bits and pieces scattered throughout random conversations. And even then, it wasn’t much. I did read her dossier back then. It is mentioned that she was a sniper, and I remember reading some of her achievements, which includes ‘ around 500 to 600 ground kills, 15 Aircrafts downed, and 1 Heavy cruiser sunk.’ Even I, who were not that familiar with military terms, knew what a huge accomplishment that last part was. For a single soldier to sink a large warship all on her own, no wonder they gave her such a prized medal.

But she always avoided speaking of it. She didn’t like dwelling on her accomplishments and never wanted to take any credit, so I never probed any further.  And my gut feeling told me that something really bad had happened to her friends.

We finally reached the memorial. It was a quiet place; you could listen to the breeze of wind gently caressing your face as birds sang in the distance. I remember that it’s dedicated to those who gave up their life in the war. It was a large structure made of marble, that made it quite difficult for someone in a wheelchair to go all the way to the top, so we were content just looking at it from the ground. There was a huge plaque mounted below the bronze statue of a knight standing at the top, which lists the names of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have given up their lives for this country. The Lieutenant looked around, looking for the names of her friends, her eyes glanced over every single name on the plaque.

I myself joined in with her. Though the words on the plaque were so small that I can barely see what’s written. The Lieutenant, however, seems to have no problem reading them at all. Probably reminiscent of her being a sniper. Nevertheless, I noticed that the names were separated in some sort of a group. I think I remember the Lieutenant mentioning something like a division, a battalion, a battlegroup, and a company. Maybe whichever one of those?

After several minutes of looking around, a man in blue uniform similar to that of the Lieutenant approached us with a salute.

            “Afternoon, misses. I noticed that you’ve been staring at the plaque for quite some time. Are you looking for someone in particular?”

            “Ah, yes. Well, I was looking for a group to be exact. Where’s the entire Ouroboros drop troops battlegroup buried?” Asked the Lieutenant.

            “Ouroboros? Are you…” He approached from behind us, so he didn’t see it at first. But as I turned the Lieutenant’s wheelchair around towards him, he recognized the medal of honour she’s wearing on her uniform. And I could see him raising both eyebrows in awe before talking to us again. “I see, yes ma’am, right this way.” The guard said, as he walked towards a paved path on the burial grounds. I followed through as I pushed the wheelchair.

I observed the guard further. He was a tall man with blond hair, like many others, he doesn’t seem that old. Even though he does seem quite older than the two of us.

            “Ma’am, I noticed the medal of honour you are wearing. Are you by any chance, the white witch, Cromwell?”

White witch Cromwell? That’s the first time I’ve heard of that nickname…

            “In the flesh.” The Lieutenant said, sternly. I was quite surprised when she said that in a very matter of fact tone. It was unlike the Lieutenant that I know, whose gentle and soft voice would make even the hardest of rock soften.

            “I see, it’s an honour, ma’am.”

            “And you are?”

            “Yes, sorry for not introducing myself earlier. I am Corporal Jakob Saarinen, Commonwealth army 42nd Mechanized Infantry division. I served on army group north, like you, ma’am.”

            “I see, it’s a pleasure, Corporal.”

            “No no, the pleasure is mine, Lieutenant.” He stopped walking and turned towards us. “Actually, I’ve always wanted to give my personal gratitude to you, Lieutenant.”

The Lieutenant seems quite surprised at this. “For what? I’m sorry, but as far as I remember, this is the first time we’ve met.”

            “That might be true, but your actions affected countless of people, Lieutenant. Including me, and my family. You see, I am a Norden, many of us who fled from the Empire to the Commonwealth settled in on the city of Arcour.” He explained, I saw the Lieutenant made a long face that says ‘oh.’ “When Arcour was besieged by the Empire, my entire family was trapped in there. There is not a single day where I did not think about them, I’ve lost counts on the numbers of sleepless night I’ve went through because of that.”

            “I see.”

            “But then something happened. The besieger on Arcour seems suddenly undersupplied, and Commonwealth forces managed to break through the siege line and liberate the city. Later, I found out that was because of your heroic deeds.  I heard that you sunk a heavy cruiser and blew up an entire logistical port, causing supply problems for the Empire. I don’t know how you did it, but…” Again, in a gesture reminiscent of Mr. Hiigata and Le Blanc. Jakob bowed deeply towards the Lieutenant, holding one hand in her chest. “I am profoundly grateful! I can see my family again thanks to you, I always wanted to thank the white witch for saving my entire family, and here you are now. Thank you so much for your service!”

            “I see, I see, I see, I am glad you and your family are safe.” The Lieutenant said, still in her stern and matter of fact tone. Although I noticed something else in her voice… She seems very nonchalant about her answer.

            “No no, that won’t do. I don’t know how much this will help but…” He reached for something in his pocket. And handed it over to me for checking. “… Here’s my contact address. My father is a parliament member, I’m sure with the connections he has, we can be helpful for you.”

            “I see, I appreciate it. Thank you, Corporal” The Lieutenant said.

            “It’s my pleasure, Lieutenant!” He said, ending it with a fine salute before turning back to escort us towards our original destination.

Saying that the burial ground is large is a severe understatement. The sight stretched for a couple of miles. It was so quiet; one could hear the wind. Rows and rows of crosses, headstones, and tombstones sat on hills and swales all the way down the hill into the valley. Written are the names of those who have given their lives for their countries. Coats, helmet, uniform, belts, children’s toys and all other keepsakes were lies atop some of these graves, all in the likeness of those who wore them.

And then our guide stopped walking. “Here it is.” He said, pointing towards a section of the grave, “The Battalion of Heroes, the Ouroboros drop troops.” It wasn’t far from the one I was staring at. At the sight of it I was spellbound. There were about 80 to 90 names written on the separate granite stone.

            “Thank you, Corporal. Now, would you mind? I need some time for myself.”

            “Yes, of course Lieutenant.” He said, leaving with yet another salute.

            “You too, Lonnete. Would you kindly give me some time alone?”

            “Eh? Uh, yes, Lieutenant, of course.”

So, I left the Lieutenant alone with all of her supposed friends, I can only hope that she is okay. With that being said, I took some time to explore around the cemetery.

I saw one man with an old cloth folded over a picture of his young boy. It was so quiet that I can hear what he was mumbling about. “Here he was” he said. “He was in the war. They put him on a train one day and took him away”. The peace on the face of the man told a whole different story. “So a thing that we think so highly of, our strong soldiers, is in reality just a fading picture, they never really exist. “

That was quite a sad thing to listen to. Here and there, I would see people visiting their loved ones, leaning over their gravestone, reading the dates. Some of them looked so upset, others so tired and sad, that you could tell they wanted so badly just to cry. One of the graves that caught my attention belongs to one Amy Nicholas Ann, a girl who served in the army, its epitaph reads “Mother, I love you so much. Goodbye. I am leaving you. Please forgive me.” Reading that sent shivers down my spine, the harrowing message left me wondering why the military, or for that matter anyone would send their children off to die in a war when you can at least choose to live in peace? Those children don’t have the choice that they do. And looking at how the Lieutenant ends up, it’s all the more absurd.

On the other end of the row, I can see a little boy no older than nine. It was so quiet that I can hear him crying and shouting. “Please daddy, don’t leave me!” No one answered him. I approached him slowly. He stared at me with a confused look on his face.

“I’m sorry” I said, “I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you right now. I just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you, and if you ever need any help, I’m always here for you.” I got no response, he just kept crying.

I felt like I was walking through a nightmare, seeing someone go through this. I wished I could do more for them. Feeling that my presence was not enough to help, I walked away. If I wasn’t already, I was definitely leaving the cemetery with a very heavy heart if not for the Lieutenant. I will not even go there, it’s not my place to give anything like that any sort of moral value. I was told I should not pity people who kill, but seeing her, I am not sure if that rule applies to her.

That’s all I can think of right now.

“Lonnete? Lonnete? Where are you?”

That’s when I heard the Lieutenant calling for me.

“Ah! Yes Lieutenant, I’m right here!” I replied, running across the field, raising my maid skirt up as I go to not make it dirty. ”I’m here, Lieutenant. How can I help you?”

“Uhm, so… I told you to leave me alone before because I want to have some time for myself, right?”

“Uh huh, that makes sense.”

“I wanted to visit all of my friends buuut, I uh, can’t move the wheelchair by myself, you know, soo …”

“Oh. I see. Okay.”

            “Um.. Sorry.”

            “Ah, what are you talking about Lieutenant. It’s okay to have some time alone for yourself once in a while. Here, let me help you.”

            “Thankyou, Lonnete. Move over there please.”

            “Yes, Lieutenant.”

I moved towards the spot the Lieutenant pointed to with what’s left of her right arm. Another row granite cross that looked like the others on this section.

            “So… these are your friends, Lieutenant?”


            “There’s… A lot of graves in this section…”

            “Yeah. I’m the only one left alive.”

            “I-is that so…” No wonder why she’s never keen with dwelling on the past… “The guy from before, Corporal Saarinen seems to regards you very highly.”


            “I’m sure you and all of your friends were all very brave heroes.”

This time, the Lieutenant did not give a reply immediately. She gave a long look at the graves of her past comrades. And then she sighs.

            “I’m not a hero, Lonnete.”

            “Oh, come now Lieutenant. You’ve heard what Corporal Saarinen said. You’re basically his hero.”

            “Eight hundred and twenty-seven.”


            “Eight hundred and twenty-seven. That’s how much people that were on board the Mistaya that day.”

            “The Mistaya?”

            “The Cruiser that I sunk.”


That’s… a lot of people, but surely those were the people from the Imperial navy, right? So, what’s wrong about-

            “There are mothers that won’t see their children. Children that lost their parents. Siblings separated.”

            “That’s… sad. But the sailors should know what they signed up for, shouldn’t they?”

            “Oh, I know what you’re thinking. So let me tell you this. The Mistaya lost control and crashed into Baron Severny, An Imperial convoy ship with 231 people on board as it docked on the port.”


            “The convoy ship was carrying volatile explosives. The crash triggering massive explosion on the port as it reached the fuel storage and munitions depot. There were thousands of people.”


            “I caused the death thousands of people in a single day, Lonnete. Thousands of people, dead.”


            “Oh, didn’t I tell you I was from Edna? The exact same port town that happened? When I got back to what used to be my home after the city had been liberated. I found corpses of my siblings. Both crushed by a combination heavy steel beam and concrete slab just in front of my ruined house.”

            “My god… Lieutenant, I’m… sorry, I have no idea… So does that mean when Corporal Saarinen told the story of how his family was saved by your action…”

            “You know what’s funny? I didn’t cry at all when I saw their lifeless body. You know what I did? I laughed. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I laughed so hard that I vomited what little food I ate that morning. But still, I continued to laugh. I kept laughing until I feel like I couldn’t breathe anymore. I kept laughing until I collapsed on the ground and passed out. When I woke up the next morning, I found myself lying on a medical tent, with people hailing me as a hero.”


            “You know, that’s why I hated the word hero. Is this what heroes do? Kill? Is this what heroes do? Laughing upon the dead remnants of their own siblings? Ah, that was messed up, wasn’t it? What kind of person would burst out laughing like a maniac upon seeing the rotten carcasses of their own siblings? Apparently, I was that person. I should’ve cried. I should’ve howled and wailed in despair. Because, because, that was my family, right? That’s the last of my family. Gone. By my own hands. I should’ve been in tears. But no, I did not cry. The tears wont flow. I laughed, why? I wonder why, why won’t the tears flow? Why won’t I cry?”

“L-lieutenant?” I noticed a subtle change in her voice. She conveyed all of her words in a deadpan tone. As if she wasn’t talking to me. As if she was talking… to herself.

            “Ah, thinking back, I remember how messed up my mind was back then. I think I remember why I didn’t cry. It was because I thought of how stupid and pointless their death looks. My little sister got her head planted onto the ground by a large concrete slab. My little brother made this weird pose after a steel beam cut his body in half. I think, that’s what I was laughing at, yeah. The comical poses they made when they died. Didn’t know that was possible with a human body. But of course, I laughed. This life would’ve been a tragedy if it weren’t funny. So I laughed.”


What is this? I couldn’t believe what I’m hearing. Who am I talking to right now? Who is this? Never in my entire life have I ever seen something like this. Is this really the Lieutenant? How come she could say all of those words? It’s one thing if a mentally insane person says all of that erratically. But no, she said that in a very calm and composed tone. It is as if she was just talking normally over an afternoon tea. What is happening here?

            “Oh, don’t worry, I’m fine. I’m fine. I am sober now. I can think objectively, now. I was just relaying to you my thought process at the time and I objectively know how messed up my actions was back then. I assure you that I won’t be that messed up while I still have clarity of mind. I’m-“

            Listening to her jumbled mumbling was not pleasant at all. I remember covering my mouth in disbelief at the words coming out of the Lieutenant’s mouth. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to tap on the Lieutenant’s shoulder, putting some amount of force into it in hopes it would stop her.

            “Lieutenant… would you like some cigarette?”

And I’m relieved to found out that she does indeed stop talking.

A moment of silence followed between us. The sound of leaves rattling in the wind could be heard, gushing through the both of us.










            “Mhm. “

            “Let’s go home… Lieutenant.”



I look at the Lieutenant, eyes wide.

            “So… when you didn’t specifically request for a maid around your age, you’re saying that I wouldn’t be here?”

            “Probably not. They’ll hire someone more qualified for the job.”

I thought about it. I thought about what if I wasn’t working as her maid. Come to think of it, I originally only volunteered for a limited period of time for the veteran aid centre. The limits of time have been way overdue after I started serving the Lieutenant.

But after all this time, after almost one year of being with her, I never raised any complaints. I wonder why? Objectively speaking, the work was very tiring. I have to wake up before the sun rises, I have to do a lot of labour, I have to be very considerate of her, and I slept way after the moon rises. It was really tiring.

But why have I never sounded a complaint?

“I’m sorry for being such a burden Lonnete. I was only thinking of myself. While it’s true that I lost my parents on the first day of the war and My siblings died in Edna. I shoulnd’t have been allowed to be someone else’s burden.”


            “I’m sorry that I’m so useless… I broke my back and I lost my arms during the final battle of the ringed tower. I cannot take care of myself, and I don’t have anyone else to return to. All my colleagues perished along the way, and I’m sorry that it had to be you that would take care of me… I can’t go anywhere without you helping me. I need to have you spoon feed me every time I need to eat. I need your help to undress me every time I need to take a bath, and to dress me up when I’m done. I need you to help me go to the toilet, I need you to brush my teeth, I need you to put me to sleep at night. How am I any different than a baby?”

I left the kitchen, and started walking towards the dining table

I walked closer towards her.

            “Lieutenant, please…”

In that moment, I realize why I never even sounded a complaint. I realize why I subconsciously decided to stay with her, and letting go of many other opportunities I could’ve pursued.

            “Ah, one good thing is that an artillery shrapnel lacerated the area around my womb, so at least, you won’t have to deal with my-”

            “Caulia! Stop! Please… stop…”

Without wasting any second, I wrapped myself around her in a hug. Fearing that it would cause her pain, I was being reserved with it. Even though I wanted to hug her tightly, I really, really, wanted to…

But I mainly did that in order for me to avoid listening to what else she would say. I couldn’t listen to it anymore. It hurts, it hurts so much. The sting to my heart was so painful I couldn’t take it anymore. All I could feel was pain. Even if it was second hand, it was still too unbearable.

After all. I decided to do all of this because I cared about her.

            “A-ah… I’ve said too much, haven’t I? I’m… sorry. Yes… I’m sorry for dragging you here.”

            “No, no! That’s not what I meant! I asked you to stop not for my sake, but for yours! Please, stop hurting yourself… And how… How could someone endure so much pain as you have… Why do you have to endure that much pain? How is that fair? What have you done to deserve it? You’ve lost everything, you’re in constant pain, you are doomed to be alone for the rest of your life… How is that fair?!  What was God thinking?!” I said, no, shouted out at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t process this much misery; it was too absurd. No wonder everyone in the military respected her so much. No wonder a Captain bowed deeply to this young and frail looking girl, no wonder a world class actor asked a nobody like me to take care of her… They knew what she had gone through, and they knew what she must deal with looking onwards. They did their best to console her, but what meaning do brass medals and honorific plaques hold when you’ve lost everything?

She was silent upon listening to all of that.

            “Lia… I’ve noticed this since meeting you. But your eyes, they’re always looking at something else, don’t they? Your eyes were always empty… You never actually looked at the things in front of you, you were always looking at something else. In your head, in your mind, you were reliving all the horrors you went through, didn’t you?”

Still, I receive no response. It seems my words did not reach her.

The Lieutenant had been hurting all along and she always blamed herself for it. I still have her around my arms, with me sobbing intermittently. “I can only imagine what kind of horrific images you’re witnessing, every time I talk to you, every time you’re eating, every time you sit down in your painting room and stare down on that blank canvas. But Lia, please, you don’t have to bear it alone. You know? I don’t mind sharing that burden to you, I don’t mind helping you out. I don’t mind you taking my time away from me. So please, let me share in your burden, Lia.”

After more silence for what felt like an eternity, I finally got a response. She fixed her posture upright, and gently pushed me aside.

“You called me Lia.”

She said, with a smile on her face. Meanwhile I still wore this ugly crying look, looking up at her with a dumbfounded expression. I think she found it funny somehow as she started giggling upon looking at me.

            “Ehehehe, you called me Lia.”

            “A-ah… I did, uh… I’m Sorry, Lieu-“

Before I finished my words, she stumped me in the head with what remains of her right arm. It… actually kind of hurts…


            “Stuupid. I wanted you to call me that.” She said, her face quite annoyed.

            “Ow, ow…”

            “But that’s not good. You’re making me too attached to you.”


            “How can I relieve you of your duty now? That’s not fair.”

She said that, but a smile returns to her, and she takes a deep breath.

            “I’m sorry for making you think like that, Lonnete. I even made you shed some tears for me.” She spoke. “I probably would’ve cried alongside you too, if not for the fact that my tears had long since dried up during the war.”


Pluck! Again, she stumped me with her right arm.


            “Stuuuupid Lonnete. If you call me that again, I will have you court martialed for disobeying my order.”

            “Heh?! You can do that?!”

            “I sure could.”

I don’t know whether if Lieu- I mean, Lia, is serious or not. Or whether she has that kind of power in the military or not. But I’m not too keen on finding out. People who have served in the military are really, really good at switching off the civilian mask they wore on everyday life should the need arises. I’ve experienced that with my uncle. So I obliged.

            “O-okay, Caulia.”


            “Okay, Lia.”

            “Hehe, that’s more like it.”

She sighs. before continuing.

            “Still. Thank you for doing that, I am glad that to know you cared about me.”

            “Well… I’ve been taking care of you for months. How could I not?”

She giggles at that reply. And I found myself trying to wipe away what’s left of my tears.

            “You asked ‘what was god thinking?’ Funny, it reminds me of something. Did you know that I met God during the war?” she said, calmly and confidently

            “You did?”

             “I didn’t believe it at first, but after she showed me some evidence, I began asking a torrent of question to her. Mainly, why did you let this war happen, why did you let evil run rampant? why didn’t you do anything?”

I do not know whether I could believe what the Lieutenant said or not. I don’t know whether this is a mental episode or not. The fact that she used the pronoun of “she” to describe God was… something. But I was still too emotional to refute any philosophical belief at that time, not that I have the actual capacity to do that in the first place. And besides, the Lieutenant seems so confident in her statement, So I followed along.

            “Do you know what she gives for an answer?”


            “Why, a question, of course, like some irresponsible teacher. It seems that God can’t even avoid this trend.”

I was… too emotionally tired to give any meaningful remarks back at that statement. Though I think I remember giving a dry laugh…

            “She said ‘sure, I can save everyone. But what do you think would happen if I were to save everyone? If everyone were to live happy, with no worries in their life, they don’t have to work for anything, they don’t have to fear anything. They can sleep, eat cakes, sing songs all day long. If I were to eradicate all evil, what do you think would happen, then?’ she said.”

            “What did you say Lia?”

            “I wisely said ‘hnghgnghgh…’ because I just had my arms amputated by an explosion and the pain just started to settle in.”


            “It’s crazy painful.”

            “I- I see… Y-yeah, I would imagine so…”

Waah… War veterans… their sense of humour is… really dark huh…

            “But this is what our God said. ‘it would be the end of the world.’”


            “Doesn’t make any sense, right? Before I was able to ask for clarifications, she was gone, and left me just like that. Shortly after that, I too passed out.”

            “But how? If all misery ends, why would it cause the end of the world?”

            “I thought so at first… Until I read something in a newspaper, about a certain experiment gone wrong.”

            “What is it?”

            “So a group of scientist wanted to found out what would happen if the rats has all their needs accommodated. How prosperous said colony of rats would be. So basically, the same premise of what our God mentioned in her example. The rats were given food and water, they were given spaces to walk, they were free to go in and out of the enclosure. It was practically rat heaven. What do you think happened?”

            “Well… You did say that it was an experiment gone wrong…”

            “Ah, right, I spoiled it ahaha. But yeah. The rats did not thrive at all. It was the complete opposite. It was total chaos. They began killing each other on the first week, some starting to cannibalize other rats despite having access to food given by the scientist. They prefer to stay at one place despite given complete freedom to go whenever they please. The rats went mad, it was basically the end of the world for that certain rat colony.” She paused, lowering her tone for her next sentence. “And in that moment, I immediately thought that ‘She’s right… Our God is right…”

            “That’s… Scary, but is it really fair to compare us humans to some lab rats?” I said.

            “I’ve given some thought to that to. But in the end, my conclusion is still the same… No, in fact, it would be worse, given what we humans are capable of. It might not be far off to say that it would be the end of the world as she said.”

            “How so?”

            “I believe the keyword here is absolute ingratitude. Drawing examples from the rats, they were given foods and drinks regularly for free, yet some of them choose to cannibalize their fellow rats. Why? Because they can. And just because they can. It is the same for humans and their wars. There aren’t any inherent reasons why war should happen. Fundamentally, we did it just because we can, through our sheer ingratitude to prove to ourself that we can. We are, after all, an irrational being.”

“That’s…” I paused. “That’s why this war keeps happening.”

“Yeah, and it’s all because of our ingratitude,” she said, giving a disgusted smirk. “The same thinking that caused the rats to eat each other just like how humans kill each other.”

I have no idea why or how me, a maid, ended up having esoterical discussion with a war veteran using some rats to describe human behavior. I always found these abstract field of knowledge to be quite boring in school. But seeing it explained through the lens of real-world example made me realise how messed up our existence is. All because some people wanted to demonstrate themselves, and display their power. There was no moral high ground, no spark of righteousness guiding them. Just pure hatred, narcissism, egocentrism, childishness, and not giving a damn.

            “But why couldn’t she stop it then? Why couldn’t God stop this irrationality?”

            “I believe she could. But she chooses not to.”


            “Because that would mean she would have to kill every last human on this world”


Lia took a deep breath.

            “You see, that’s why I was never really bothered with having my arms gone. I don’t know whether God intended for our meeting to be meaningful or not, it might not be. And I don’t know whether the conjecture with the rats is a correct one or not. I believe there are many points of argument for those with a critical mind, whether it be for that God’s statement or for the rat experiment, but I don’t care. I’m a soldier, it doesn’t matter to me. I’ll choose to derive my own meaning, and that is, being alive is a blessing in its own right.”

            “That’s a beautiful conclusion, Lia.”

            “You think so? And here I thought you theater girl would think that it’s clichéd or something.”

            “Some clichés usually led to a happy ending… And of course, I want everyone in real life to have a happy ending. Clichéd or not.”

She smiled at my reply.

            “Well but of course, I was still a flawed human being after all. Even after saying all of that. I still couldn’t get the images of what I’ve seen off of my mind just like that. That’s why sometimes, I acted like I did…”

            “It’s okay Lia. I understand.”

And then we were interrupted by the sound of the clock striking. As before we know it, the clock already indicated a time 9 in the evening.

            “Ah! I’m sorry, I should’ve prepared some warm water for you…”

            “Ahaha, we really forgot about time huh.”

            “You need to sleep early Lieu-a, ahem, Lia. You’re going to the capital tomorrow morning for the victory parade, right?”


            “But because your battalion is no longer with you, you’ll be marching all alone on your own didn’t you…”

            “Yeah, I will be marching alone.”

            “Would you be okay?”

            “Probably not. I’ll be sad. I might even cry.”


            “What, you want to come with?”

            “I… I don’t want you to be sad, Lia.”

She lets out a dry laugh after I said that.

            “God, having a friend that cares for you is wonderful.” She mumbles, still not quiet enough for me to be able to hear her. “I can’t believe I missed out on this because of social anxiety. How stupid…”

            “You… don’t have to go to the parade if you don’t want to.” I said, gently pressing on her shoulder.

            “I’m a soldier, Lonnete. I have to do my duty.” She said in a stern voice. It was quite surreal witnessing a beautiful girl in an equally enchanting white dress saying such a line. Though if anything, that just means I couldn’t do anything to change her mind.

            “Although they probably won’t mind if you hitch a ride with me to the Capital. You just can’t join me in the parade. You can watch it along with everyone else on the crowd.”

            “Really? That’s good to hear!”

            “So, um…”

Her voice trailed off and she looked away from me. I could see her ears reddening, I’ve witnessed this kind of signal many times before. It’s when you wanted something that you’re too embarrassed to ask outright. And I think I know what to do.

            “Yes, of course, Lia. I will cheer on you from the crowds.”

Her head quickly turned to me and her eyes lit up “That’s good to hear.”

            “But if I see you cry. I will rush towards you and give you a hug.” I said with confident determination.

            “No, please don’t. They’ll arrest you.”

            “Then don’t cry.”

            “Geez… That’s a tall order.”

            “How about this. Why don’t we visit the National arts museum after the parade?”

            “W-wah!! You’re right! The national museum is in the capital!” She said with a shout that came out of nowhere.

            “Right? Do you want to go? Want me to pack something for you to wear on the museum? Or are you fine with your uniform.”

            “No, not the uniform. Give me a blouse or a dress.”

            “Yes, ma’am.”

            “Well look at the time, shouldn’t you be doing something?”

            “Oh, yes! I’ll be right back.”

I proceed to stand up and head towards the bathroom to prepare some warm water for her. But as I walked, I remember smiling with glee along the way. I’m just glad that I’ve come into some sort of understanding with Lia. And I could’ve sworn that, for the first time ever, I’ve seen some light in her eyes even only for a bit. She’s finally seeing me, looking at me!

I arrived on the basement and turned on the boiler. The dreariness of this place couldn’t scratch the brightness in my heart right now. What could that light on her eyes meant remains to be seems. One thing is for sure though.

It could only mean something good. And I’m looking forward to it.


It was high noon on the Commonwealt’s capital city of Aronessia. On a straight path 3 kilometers long, stretching from the Parliament palace on the north end, to the unification plaza on the south end. The breadth of the road was completely packed with people, it was quite the festivities with short wire fencing that served no other purpose other than seperating the parade with the people standing on the edge. On the other end of the avenue, several podiums and stands could be seen, housing people holding all kinds of musical instrument in their hands.

Everyone was willing to see and share in the momentous moment. To celebrate the one-year anniversary of their victory over the Radovin Empire and the Tasmir Khaganate, a victory parade is to be held along the main avenue. My rather slender figure managed to secure me a spot in the front row of the crowds. meaning that I would be able to see Lia when her turn came.

Of course I’ve seen her off earlier this morning. And what I speculated was true. Foot soldiers such as Lia would have to march alongside their fellow battlegroup. Having none left alive, she would have to march all on her own. Well, save for someone else that would have to push her on her wheelchair.

The first to rode on the parade were the higher brass. All the generals, admirals, and marshals, riding on open topped cars alongside their confidants. Themselves standing tall and firm, gracing the crowds with a proud salute. The people replied with cheers as the music blares louder.

Next comes the cavalry. The mechanical monsters of the Commonwealth, stuffs such as crawlers and mechs. I have to say standing beneath the sight of one was quite a beholding experience. They tower over you, some even blocking the sunlight as they pass.

After all the iron beasts had passed, comes the regular men and women in uniform, marching on the avenue. Time to time, holders of prestigious awards would get special mention as they marched along the way. What I found interesting was the quirks each of these awardees has when they passed on the streets.

It is a well-known fact that individuals of superhuman abilities exist in this world. The Radovin has their witches, the Tasmir has their Alchemists, while in the commonwealth they were referred to as mages, specifically combat mages. These people were rare, of course. But the military of each respective nation put them to good use during the war.

And of course, the recipient of those prestigious military awards were mostly these kinds of people. They look quite striking too, you could tell them apart from the common dregs by their appearances alone, whether it be an unnatural hair colour, unnatural hair shapes, or unnatural body shapes. I would know, some of these people had just passed through the parade after all. Though I don’t know how they got those or how they maintain that kind of appearance in the chaotic field of war, I suppose that’s what make them special, I guess.

But that’s just all the more reason why I put Lia in very high regard. There’re these groups of people with all sorts of crazy abilities. Such as flying faster than a missile, shooting fireballs out of their hands, possessing the minds of their enemies, yadda, yadda. And then there’s Lia. A shy girl who just likes to draw, receiving not only one, but two of the highest awards the Commonwealth could give to a serviceman. I am aware that she doesn’t like to dwell on her achievement. But the fact that a regular human like her could outperform the likes of combat mages is just astonishing. No wonder everybody respected her so.

Speaking of Lia. The line of the battlegroup that had passed me is starting to get thinner and thinner, indicating heavy casualties suffered by said battlegroups. And then it went empty, as if nobody was marching along the avenue. That’s what everyone seemingly thought, until the loudspeaker announces yet another name of the so-called heroes of the Commonwealth.

Hero of the Commonwealth. 1st Special Drop Troops Battlegroup, ‘The Ouroboros Legion’. Recipient of the medal of honour and plaques d’honneur. The 5th most decorated serviceman of the entire Commonwealth. The White Witch herself, 1st Lieutenant Caulia Cornellia Cromwell.”


Unlike the previous bombastic sound of army boots being trampled onto the grounds that accompanied the announcement. Lia’s announcement was followed by a sudden wave of silence as the figure of a slim girl in uniform with hair white as snow appeared. Sitting atop a wheelchair, being pushed by some random serviceman I did not recognize. They are the only one present at the wide avenue. I can see her face from here. And yeah, just as she said, this seems to take quite a heavy toll on her. I saw her looking down on the ground, not meeting any of the crowd’s gazes.

I heard some people whispers among themselves, I heard some people gasp in disbelief, and I heard some people crying at the sight of her. Knowing that her marching alone meant the rest of her battlegroup can’t make it to the parade, one way or the other. The only thing not affected by the sight was the marching band and the confettis that playing uninterrupted.

As she walked through the silent crowd, I can see her face looking extremely downcast. I can see her face seems so bitter with memories.

            “Oh no, Lia…”

I have to do something. Yesterday, I saw her genuine smile for the first time ever. A light finally lit up in her eyes that had always been mired in haunting memories. And now she’s about to return to those miserable faces again. I will not let that light left her again, not this time, not anymore. So I decided to do something.

She said they’ll arrest me if I went beyond the wire fencing and trespassed, right? So that means I’ll just have to do it from here…

I calmed myself first by regulating my breath, slowly, calmly, in and out, in and out. And then, as she started to pass in front of me, I took one very deep breath in my chest, and shouted out at the top of my lungs.


I somehow managed to level the sound of the marching band through my shout alone. And of course, people all started to turn their attention at me with all sorts of looks. From here I can see Lia, too looking at me with wide eyes and parted lips. Everyone but the marching band members were looking at me right now. I admit, I felt a cringing sensation by drawing this much attention, but being in the theater world had been my dream since the very beginning. And if I ever wanted to achieve that dream, I will just have to push through this situation with all of my might.

I stood tall and fixed my posture upright. And then in a swift movement, I gave my best impression of a military salute at Lia. I kept my eyes open and looking forward at her. And to my relief, I’m glad to see her… smile? Or was it a smirk? Is she mocking me? I feel like she’s making fun of me or something. That ungrateful girl. But then, slowly, I heard a clap from the crowds. It started as a shy clap, coming from someone in the crowds, slowly, one became two, two became four, and in a chain reaction, the applause started to drown even the sound of the marching band.

And then suddenly I heard the crowd erupt into a deafening roar, all clapping their hands and pumping their fists in the air. I could see some flowers being thrown her way. And her face is… in tears…

… So she cried anyways. But somehow, it doesn’t feel like a sad moment anymore. No, she just seems happier. And it was clear to me at this point, she was looking right at me. I followed her eyes as she turns around and puts on a huge smile, despite the tears flowing from her cheeks.

I kept my stiff saluting pose as her wheelchair passed me by, applause still roaring loudly from the crowds. I swear I could see even the man pushing her wheelchair smiling and talking to Lia. I hope he’s consoling her.

They continued to walk through the avenue, their figure gets smaller and smaller as they got further away from my spot. Eventually, another battlegroup would pass by us, and another names started to get special mention from the loudspeaker. I slowly lowered my salute, my face brimming with a fulfilled smile, as I waited for the day to be over.

At least today ended in a good note.


        “… So, Étienne Marson made this first masterpiece of his when he was still studying as an engineering student in The University of Aronessia.”

            “Hee, that’s awesome. I never knew he had an engineering background!”

            “Yeah, it’s impressive he ended up as a professor while still doing art from time to time.”

On the next day, after the parade, two girls stood before an old oil painting. One of them sat in a wheelchair, donning a pink blouse and a top hat adorned with flowers. Behind her another girl, dressed from top to bottom in the familiar black and white dress of a maid.

            “I always adored his impeccable use of contrast. It is as if he manipulated anyone viewing his work into looking it the way he intended to.”

Me, being no person of art, have no idea what that meant. To me, they’re simply a bunch of paintings that are way beyond my reach, so I never really thought much about it. But seeing how passionate Lia is about this whole thing, I just followed along, nodding on her explanation.

            “You see, he puts the Angel on top of the man, demonstrating the difference of importance between the subject. And then he puts a stronger contrast between the angel and the background when compared to the man, meaning that …”

She went on and on, explaining every little nook and cranny, insisting that they all have meaning and purpose. Down to the last brush stroke.

            “… W-whoa, that’s impressive.”

            “I know right! I always wished I could paint like him.”

That’s an artist to you. They really saw the world differently from us. For me personally, the painting we’re currently looking at looks good simply because the artist thought it looked good, and went ahead with it. Not wanting to be a mere listener, I tried to voice my own opinion.

            “But what if Étienne didn’t really think of anything when painting this, and just do what he thought look good?” I suggested.

            “No way! With all these intricacies on his painting, there must be something going on in his deep and complex mind!”

            “A-ah… You’re right.”

Well, that blew up on my face as Lia vehemently disagrees.

But still, I refuse to let my one day of cramming on the subject of the history of arts go to waste. I deliberately borrowed a book on that subject the day before from the library, just so that I can talk about art with Lia.

“So you liked these types of painting, Lia?”

“Yeah! I especially liked the impressionists, and Impressionism in particular. I could really feel their flow and emotion when I looked at their paintings.”

Impressionism. If I recall reading from that book, it’s a style that expresses feeling through a dramatic composition, whereas the impressionists included things like light and color. As a matter of fact, it’s the style the artists of this painting follow.

The paintings that follow this style are usually smaller-scale and more abstract, and tend to express energy and mood through the freedom of paint… according to the book, that is.

Speaking of the book. I remember it mentioning a popular artist name that follows this style…

“Ah, impressionist, like Ludwig Van Bock?”

“Heh!? You also know about that Lonnete?” Lia said, turning to look at me with a curious gaze.

“W-well, a little bit. I’ve heard about him in a book” That I just read yesterday…

“I never knew you were also into art. Had I known, I would’ve talked about it to you soo many times before”

“Ahaha, hahaha…” And you probably wouldn’t talk about anything else…

But still, I felt like that style fits someone like Lia somehow.

“Well to be fair, I adored all types of style. All but realism.”

“You disliked realism?”

“I didn’t dislike it per se. It’s a wonderful style to hone your technique. But as an art piece, I found most realist piece are rather uninspiring. They just copy what they see with their eyes without much room for their own imagination to create a beautiful composition. “

“Is that so…”

“Yeah. If you just paint a scene following a strict technical requirement in order to copy what you see. How is that any different than assembling an artillery piece in a factory?”

W-whoa, that’s quite an analogy. And why do I feel like she just made quite a strong take that a lot of people would attack her for…

“Okay then, why don’t we look for Van Bock’s piece. I’m pretty sure some of his work is on display here.” I suggested.


We spent the entire day touring the museum. Every so often, when a painting strikes her so, she could go on and on about how that particular painting is such a master piece, and we would be standing there for half an hour. Which, to be honest, is making my feet quite sore at times. I wanted to say she’s having it good because she’s sitting on a wheelchair the entire time, but I have to remember she probably had faced far worse in the war.

And throughout it all. Whenever I took a glance at her face, I saw a face brimming with life and passion. There’s light in her eyes, and I couldn’t help but feel my chest warm whenever she would gaze at me with that pure and childlike smile of hers. Right now, the person in front of me is not the hero Lieutenant Cromwell. The person in front of me is Lia, an artist and a person with a big, harmless heart.

            “Ahh, I can’t believe I finally get to see the authentic Fire lilies and starry sky in person. I will not forget the images in my mind for as long as I live.”

            “So, what about it? Want to try painting again?”

            “Ah… I wish I could but…” She said, gesturing her handless arms.

            “You can do it, Lia.”

            “I don’t know, Lonnete.”

I stopped the wheelchair and walked in front of her. Then I grabbed her shoulder and looked at her in the eyes.

            “You can do it, Lia.”


            “I’ll help you with everything. I’ll help you prepare the brushes, the wood pallete, the canvas. Heck, I’ll even learn how to mix paints just to help you. So, what about it?”

            “W-well… My problem is not as much as the technical issue, it’s just that…”

            “It’s just that why?”

She looked away from me for a brief moment. And then, with a shy smile, she looked up at me.

“I’m just afraid.”

“You’re… afraid?”

“The pure white canvas… always reminded me of snow. The snow that fell on the Radovian tundra, the snow that fell atop of the bodies of the dead, the snow that fell on my ruined house when I discovered the body of my siblings, the snow that fell on-“

No, not this again. I’m not letting this happen. This was such a good day, and I will not let today end on a sour note.

So I kneeled down to her height, and gripped her shoulder tighter.

            “And whenever you do, I will drag you out of your nightmare and hug you tightly. I will sweep all of those bad memories away like how I sweep the dust on your house. I will give you all the hugs you’ve missed all this time, and all the hugs you’ll ever need. So trust me, okay? I believe in you, you can do this, Lia. I will always be there for you,”

My plan to encourage her to pick up the brush again almost backfired. I thought I can do it because I read a section on the book about Jennifer Pearson, a certain limbless artist from Anglicia that managed to make a good name for herself. I didn’t take into account that Mrs. Pearson wasn’t a war veteran with countless traumatic experiences like Lia was…

After a short moment of silence. She looked at me with a sincere expression, a sweet smile gracing her face, her eyes slightly wet with tears.

“Ah, It turns out I still have some tears left in me.”

“Can’t a girl get a little emotional here?”

She giggled. Still, true to her army background, she quickly regained composure, and sat upright.

“Very well. I will try. I will pick up the brush again, even if I have to bite it. I am, after all, an artist.”

A wide smile appeared on my face as relief washed all over me. I managed to save this day from ending on yet another bitter end.

            “That’s my Lia!”

I don’t know what it is within me that makes me want to help her this much. But what I know for certain is that she has suffered enough. The horrors of the war have turned an artist into a killing machine, and she hated that fact more than anything else. It left her broken and barren, and without anyone else to take care of her, it left her alone in this world.

I didn’t know how painful it is to live like that, I couldn’t imagine it. That’s probably why I was so driven to help her out. I only wanted to help in easing her pain at first, but now, I want to help her realize her dreams.

And that would begin tomorrow.


The sun shines as summer takes over. The warm green and orange light entered the painting room, followed by a light sweet fragrance of grass and flowers.

In this bright and luscious atmosphere, I entered the room with Lia in tow, with her donning the white dress she previously wore. I put the wheelchair at a stop just in front of the easel. Next to the easel was the small table with the oil paint and brushes.

“How are you feeling, Lia?” I asked.

“I feel good.”

“Awesome, let me prepare everything for you.”

“Thank you, Lonnete. I am really grateful, I really do.”

“Save your thanks after you’ve created your first masterpiece in years, hehe!”

She smiled at me warmly.

I pulled out the small pad of paper and the oil painting paints. I prepared the table and put the easel at the center. I found a brush for Lia and I placed the pad and the brush on the table and the oil painting kit beside the pad. I poured water into the bowl and wiped off all the brush cleaning stuff and the paper with my hand towel.

            “Actually Lonnete… Can I have a cigarette?”

            “No chance. You don’t need that stuff anymore, Lia.” My reply is immediate, I didn’t even need to look at her.


            “And I will not accept threat under court martial this time. I will not change my mind.”

After and tidying up all the necessary tools needed, I turned to Lia.

“Okay! I think we’re all set to go, so now, do you have anything in mind you wanted to paint, Lia?”

“I do, actually. Can you look for a diary note of some sort on the table at the edge of the room? I think it’s brown in colour?”

“Let’s see… hmm… here it is”

I took care not to open the diary before her, and brought it to her.

            “Ah yes, that’s the one. Can you open it for me please?”

I did so as she instructed. A bit too gleeful at the thought that Lia lets me have a look at what I initially assumed to be her personal diary… Until I found out that everything on that note was written in Radovin.

            “Um… Are you sure this is the correct note? Everything’s in Radovins.”

            “Lonnete, try flipping the pages.”

So I did, and now I understand why she told me to get this diary notes. Most of this diary is filled with breathtaking sketches, descriptions of moments, and short stories.

The sketches were especially beautiful. It depicts scenes of natural wonders the likes I have never seen before, the vastness of glacier mountains with grassy pastures, the icy blue waters of a lake and a desert of sand, the breathtaking beauty of a cliff, the cold rock of a mountain, and more. The artist took great care in capturing every single little details.

            “Whoa, I see, you wanted to turn some of these sketches into a full painting?”

            “Yes, you’re right.”

            “But uhh, I wasn’t aware you knew Radovian.”

            “Ahaha, this sketchbook diary is not mine, Lonnete.”


Well, that explains it, but my curiosity is not sated.

            “How did you come into its possession?”

            “I killed him.”


Lia stared out at the window with a long face.

            “It was on the early years of the war, when I was officially given the role of a sniper.” She recounted, with a deep sigh she continued. “A Radovin sniper had been picking off people at our line from a certain fortified position on a hill. At one point they even killed an officer. Our commander had had enough of this sniper, and decided to send me on a counter-snipe mission.”

            “Oh…” I think I know where this is going

            “I was successful, of course. I shot the sniper dead. In the next hour, we launched an attack and captured the hill. I get to see my erstwhile rival, still lying down with his face planted down on the Earth.” She glanced at the diary. “His name was Sergei Malashenko. Lying beside his lifeless body, I saw a diary note of some sort, so yeah, what you’re holding right now was his diary.”

            “I see…”

            “I was surprised when I flip the pages and found these amazing sketches. Wow, so it turns out he’s also an artist, like me. And a really good one too at that. Had things been different, I can see myself talking and be friends with him. We would talk about art, about drawing techniques, I wanted to ask what inspires him, who his favourite artist was. Mind you, I was still a pretty shy and socially anxious girl at that time, and yet, that was my exact thought still.” She took a deep breath, and sighs. “But no, of course that did not happen. I killed him. I killed a fellow artist with a sniper rifle, bullet through the eye. I killed him, because he would’ve killed me otherwise.”

My god, it seems that no matter the context, whatever we talked about always ended on an excerpt from a tragic war story of some sort. Talking to her feels like treading some sort of an invisible minefield where you have to avoid standing on the wrong topic in order to not trigger her PTSD. Just how much does this girl had to go through in that hellish war?

            “I’m sorry that you had to do that, Lia. He’s probably not a bad person, but the war forced both of you to kill each other.”

            “It was such a waste indeed. But I will not let this be the end of him. I will not let his ideas wither away in a piece of paper. Sergei, I will honour your existence on this world by bringing your sketches to life. That’s what I have decided to do.”

One thing is different now, though. Back then, her face would usually drown in deep sadness every time she finished talking about her war experience, and I would have to leave her alone with her thought. But now, I see the flame on Lia’s eyes, her face brimming with confidence and determination. I have to say that I was deeply moved by this development.

I stood up and grabbed her shoulder gently.

“If that’s what you’ve decided. Then I will assist you to the best of my abilities, Lia.” I said with a smile.

“Well then, why don’t we begin by mixing some paints? Come, Lonnete.”

“Yes ma’am!”

And thus, for the rest of the day, we worked together in the painting room to bring the sketches of a fallen artist to life. He might be no longer with us in this world, but for as long as their work exist, they will remain on the hearts and mind of those who were graced by their art. I’m sure Lia shares this sentiment; this was why she probably wanted to do this in the first place.

And as for me. I’m just glad to see her the way she is now. Similar to what I’ve stated up above, I’ll be helping her live on and be remembered as who she truly was and always will be at heart.

An artist.

1st Lieutenant Caulia Cornellia Cromwell was an accomplished sniper serving under La grande armée de Lividia. Originally part of the logistical corps, she is transferred to sniper role after proving herself capable during a Radovian raid on a Commonwealth Logistical centre. Her official kill count, which is zero, is due to lack of confirmation with any superior. In reality, there are numerous claims of staggering 502 to 614 ground kills, 15 aircrafts downed, and one heavy cruiser sunk; the only time in recorded history where a capital ship was sunk by a single ground-based infantry unit. While it’s true that this numbers were unofficial, the physical wreck of the cruiser Mistaya resting beneath the Cerulean Shore is irrefutable proof of her exploit. Lieutenant Caulia was severely wounded during the battle of ringed tower when supposedly, an explosion landed near her. Causing her to lose both arms and permanently wounding one of her legs. She was awarded the Anglician Medal of Honour, and the Galcian Plaques d’honneur after the war. Both of which are the highest military award that could ever be handed out to a serviceman by the respective Commonwealth member’s Nation.


She survived through the third monarch war and retired to her hometown of Edna at the war’s end. It is a well-known fact that Lieutenant Caulia was an aspiring artist prior to her conscription, having won several local awards for excellence in arts. She had thus far refused all request for an interview, making information on her post war life sparse. But it’s apparent that she continued to choose the life of an artist despite of her injuries, as there have been several reports indicating that her works are being displayed in various galleries across the Commonwealth nation. An interesting fact is that often times, a second artist would be credited in some of her works, though it’s not clear who the identity of this second artist is. Regardless of that, it remains to be a fact that her deeds cemented her as one of the greatest soldiers the commonwealth has ever been graced with.

– Excerpt from The Anglician Medal of Honour’s Recipient Dossier. Written several years after the war.

the end.

Writer: Grenadus

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