Chapter Four: The National Guards Alliance
Anna was running late to her part-time job. She spent the entirety of yesterday sleeping. It had been awhile since she had slept so well, but because of it she had forgotten to set her alarm clock, giving her only thirty minutes to get to Old Harry's bookstore. Grabbing a piece of sourdough bread to go, she quickly locked up and made her way.
As she walked, she heard the faint sound of trumpets. She had always expected the square to be loud from the voices of excited children, but she didn't imagine today would be much livelier.
The streets were a lot more crowded than usual, everyone wearing colorful clothing and happy smiles. She listened to children's laughter, smelled the delicious waffles filled with yam being cooked in the corner of the square, with fried bread sticks and deep-friend chicken, with fresh fruits and vegetable stall, as well as caramelized apple stands for children.
Anna also noticed that most of the crowd had gathered to the middle of the town square, listening intently at the plump old man holding the mic. She instantly indetified him to be Michael Dunnaby, the main speaker of Siho's Prime Minister.
Behind him stood 15 individuals, each of them wearing different army uniform.
The first four men wore light-green colored camouflage attire, stating that they had come from the Union, a nation known for their desire to rule the entire kingdom with various political tactics.
Beside them were five bulky-bodied men, three of which Anna recognized to be the "roughnecks" from last night. They had cut their hair short and their beards have been shaven cleanly, almost as if they were completely different people. They wore camouflage attire with a light gray pattern, stating their former nations to be Valkondh, the nation that uses physical strength to fight in battles both inside the chamber as well as the outside.
The next five were the complete opposite of the Valkondh men. Compared to their bulky arms, these men looked delicate, pale, and fragile. But these men had such beautiful visages. They look like they haven't seen the sun in a while, and their shoulders shivered at the numerous eyes gawking at them with interest.
"Ezterdelle," she thought, and their light-brown camouflage attire proved her right.
The last one was a familiar face. Standing confidently on the side with his arms tucked under his head, he was gleaming at the people in front. A few women waved their hands to get his attention, and he showed them a polite smile, yet his eyes were clearly showing his disinterest in the gathering.
Daniel was the only one wearing a dark-green camouflage uniform, a sign that he had come from Andestris, the richest nation in the kingdom.
This would be the last time they'll get to wear these uniforms again.
Anna knew it was hopeless to see a Sonddor soldier in the podium. It has been several years since a dispatch had come from their nation. As she stood in the back, she could hear curious whispers from the crowd.
"No one from Sonddor, huh."
" Of course not. Anyone who could come out there alive would be hailed heroes right away."
"Didn't you hear about what happened with that team led by Captain Elixon? Heard they've all been executed because nobody wanted to listen to them."
"Shush! His daughter is right there!"
Then, sudden screeching sounds caught her attention. It was Michael Dunnaby holding the mic too close to the speaker. One of the organizers pushed him to the other side of the stage and then he began to talk.
"Thank you, everyone, for coming here to witness these brave soldiers who had chosen the path of peace, not conflict. Their birth nations may call them traitors, but they abandoned one nation to fight for the entire kingdom."
Anna heard cheering coming from the crowd.
Michael Dunnaby grabbed a piece of paper from his pocket, and there he recited the very words of the Prime Minister that created the entity of the Nation Guards. She recited it her mind.
"To become a national guard requires sacrifice. You must forget where you came from, those you fought with, and what you fought for. Coming here meant you wanted to peace. However, we can only administer peace by defending, and by defending we require your skills. You are not fighting for Siho, but for the entire kingdom of Zuwan. If you cannot cut ties with your nation now, you have no reason to be here."
Then, each of the 15 soldiers were handed the National Guards official attire- a mandarin-collared, black camouflaged shirt that includes velcro-faced shoulder pockets and a stitched flag patch of a sun with six rays, each yellow line embodying the six nations of Zuwan. A long blue stripe was added to the bottom to represent Siho's Blue seas.
Each soldier was also given long black trousers with internal knee pockets, combat boots, and a black helmet with attached face shield for complete protection.
A small Siho crest is placed on the breastplate of their attire, officially marking their position as a member of the defense force.
"Good for you," she whispered, and her eyes looked at Daniel with pride. Then, as if her words had reached him, his head turned to her direction. Anna quickly bent down, and made her way quickly to work, urging herself that she would be really late otherwise.
Anna didn't have any time to clean up the bookstore today. As the crowd dissipated after the ceremony, they flocked the many shops of the main town, including Harry Fingerstone's bookstore.
"Thank you for the patronage," she said as she smiled at the last person lined up for a check out.
"Great business today, don't you think so?" Harry hummed as he looked at the register. "It should die down at this point. Those five hours passed quickly."
Anna took off the ribbon holding her hair in a ponytail and let it fall down her back.
"I'll be on my way then, Harry."
"Not working at the clinic today?" He asked.
"Not today. Everyone is out to celebrate after the ceremony so no one will be coming in."
She left the shop, and excitedly made her way to the food stalls just outside. She bought two sticks of hot dogs covered in pancake batter, an order of sweet potatoes topped with melted brown sugar, a piece of waffle-filled yam and four pieces of deep-fried chicken.
She hadn't eaten a proper breakfast and missed her lunch, so she was very hungry.
"Two days worth of food," she thought sneakily, "gobbled up in two hours."
"Is there some for me?"
Anna closed her eyes. It couldn't be real. How could he show up now of all times? Especially when she had just bought a large amount of food meant for almost three people. She closed her eyes, hoping that if she doesn't move then he would just go away, but she could feel his hand rustling over the paper bag she was holding.
"You shouldn't have," said Daniel as he ate the waffle in one bite.
"I didn't." She hissed.
"I was hungry after standing there for so long."
They walked alongside each other as she handed him a hotdog on a stick. "Are they not feeding you?"
He chuckled. "Were you at the square earlier? I think I saw you."
"I had work," she quickly answered, and she offered him a piece of a sweet potato.
"Huh. Well, do you have work now?" he pointed to the field beside the river. "They'll be doing a fireworks display in two hours. Would you like to go?"
Anna didn't know how to answer. Her head was telling her not to go, but another voice is urging her to say yes.
Yet, before she could reply, she noticed as Daniel's body stiffened in one swoop, his hand both dropped, and his fingers pointed itself to the ground. A second later she found him lifting his right hand all the way to his brow, his fingers sticking together to form a proper salute to a person who had made eye contact with him.
"Good evening, sir!" Said Daniel with a serious expression, a first to Anna's memory.
Daniel's arm dropped to the ground, and the man walked towards them.
The man appeared to be in his early forties, with a sun-kissed complexion and creases forming along his face from frowning too much. He was wearing a black dress uniform, the same one used in formal gatherings by the higher-ranked officers in the National Guards. Anna quickly recognized him as Major Arthur Romero, someone her father sometimes spoke about.
"How are you enjoying the festivity?" Asked the Major.
"It's an honor to be here, Sir. " replied Daniel.
The Major turned his eyes on Anna, and she smiled politely at him.
"Little Anna Elixon, it's been awhile," he greeted her. "You've grown beautiful over the years."
"Thank you, sir."
The way his eyes looked at her made it clear he wanted to say more, but instead he cleared his throat, and turned his eyes back to Daniel.
"The Colonel wants to speak with you. Come."
The major left first, and Daniel turned to Anna with apologetic eyes.
"You should go now," she said. "He's waiting for you."
"Will you meet me by the meadows in two hours time?" He said. "There is something I have to tell you."
"What is it?" She asked, but then they heard the Major's voice calling his name.
"I don't have time now," he replied. He grabbed her pinky finger and twisted his own with hers. "Pinky promise," he grinned slyly.
Anna as he walked away from her, and he turned his head to give her one last wave before leaving.
All Anna could remember was the boyish smile across his face, and for a second it almost seemed familiar, as if it was a sight she had seen before.
But it was impossible. She had only just met Daniel, after all.
"Silly girl," she thought to herself.
The sun had set, and it had grown dark outside, but the citizens of Siho were far from done when it came to ending the celebration. Children held sparklers in anticipation for the fireworks that would light up the skies in a few minutes.
But there was still no sign of Daniel.
Anna was holding her arms close from the cold wind that was brushing to her skin. She rubbed her hands to warm it up. She had been looking all over for him, and settled on a rock to sit on, in a spot where she could easily be found.
"If it's him," she thought, "he would find me right away."
She felt giddy at the sound of his voice when he called her name.
She quickly turned around to see the man that had been making her head spin since their first encounter, but instead heart sunk when she laid her eyes on him.
"Anna," Daniel repeated, but his tone of voice sounded low enough like he was pleading with her.
She didn't reply as something else caught her attention - the large duffel bag hanging in his shoulders
"You're leaving," she breathed. "Now?"
"So you went to the Colonel and he's sending you out right after the ceremony? Is it a mission?"
He didn't answer, and only looked at her.
"Of course," said Anna. "You can't tell me any of that."
"Take care of yourself," she said simply.
"I will," he replied.
"I'll be going then."
But Daniel won't lift his feet off the ground.
"What's wrong?" Said Anna.
"How will I be sure that you won't ignore me when I come back?"
This caught Anna off-guard. What would make him think that way? Did she seem the type of girl who would frivolously hang out with men and then forget about them as soon as they leave?
"I'm offended," she answered.
"I didn't mean it that way," he said nervously, but the uneasiness in his voice disappeared when he looked her in the eyes.
"I'll come see you when I get back."
A few men gathered just a few feet behind them. She didn't even see them arrive. Daniel finally parted with her, and she watched as they walked away into the darkness.
"Look ma, it's the fireworks!" she overheard a little girl say a few steps behind her. The black sky had once again come back to life as spherical red sparkles formed into a beautiful explosive-like chrysanthemum flower. It followed by specks of golden stars that came shooting straight up, then dispersing into million pieces across the sky. It caught a lot of people's attention, even Anna's.
"Will you look at that," she thought. "He just missed it."
A/N : Comments are always warmly welcomed!