This story is rated PG-13, as it has many elements that probably aren't suitable for the younger ones, including violence, some disturbing scenes, and language.
Beta'd by the wonderful Hanako Tabris, keeping typos and other such tragedies at bay since 2006.
+Table of Contents+
Prologue: Auld Lang Syne
Chapter 1: Antebellum
Chapter 2: Vis-á-Vis
By: Saffire Persian
Prologue: Auld Lang Syne
I'm a soldier, znachit ya
I'm a soldier, and that means
I otvetchik i sud'ya
I'm both the defendant and the judge.
Ya stoyu na dvuh kontsah ognya
I'm standing on both sides of the fire,
Ogibaya virazhi, obgonyaya smert' i zhizn'
Going around turns, overtaking death and life.
Ya begu srazit'sya s ten'yu lzhi
I'm running to fight with the shadow of a lie.
"Rise" - Origa
Edward Lawson had known, long ago, that true courage couldn't be found on the battlefield. All he saw there was the light of the insane and desperate, a fire fueled by the will to live in the eyes of those that were afraid to die.
This man was about to die. Edward could see that the man knew it, just as he himself knew it, just as his gun he carried knew it.
This man was probably just like every normal person he met during his travels. This man probably enjoyed a good drink, probably enjoyed afternoons in the sun, and probably enjoyed the company of his children and wife, if he were so fortunate. In contrast, he probably despised hardship, he probably ran from his problems, and cringed away from pain.
He was just like everybody else. Edward knew this. But he had been trained, trained to see these men as nobodies, so that the guilt of their spilt blood would not prey upon his conscience for long.
Edward smiled jadedly to himself for a moment, the gun that was trained on his adversary's head lowering slightly. The nobody looked up, hesitant and hopeful, his own gun almost within arm's reach. If things had turned out differently, had Edward been a different man, had he been in a different situation, perhaps this man sprawled out on the dirt before him would find the mercy he sought; but, as it were, Edward could not afford to spare the man any form of it. Mercy was dead and gone. Any sympathy he had towards the government and those that marched under its bloody banner had vanished the day he had realized it was full of liars who would not concede to reason.
With a startling display of speed, galvanized by desperation and fear, Edward's enemy lunged for his gun, but Edward was faster. He put pressure on his index finger that curled around the trigger. There was a jolting rush and a roar as a spark signaled the start of the life of a bullet--
We are not so different, you and I. You would do the same thing if I were lying at your feet.
--and heralded the end of the life of a man.
And, perhaps, another splinter of his soul.
The air softened back into mute stillness, and he put the gun back in its case hanging right at his side, where it always rested. He turned, aware of the distinct quivering of some dead brush to his right. A red dog with black stripes on its back emerged, one forepaw sporting a bloody wound that looked worse than it probably was. A dead Furret was in its jaws.
The dog laid it on the dirt at his feet.
"Good girl, Ami," he told her. He looked at her hurt forepaw, mostly at the sizable chunk of flesh that was now gone, evaluating it. He would have to treat it when they arrived home, he decided, but for now, it wasn’t life-threatening or in need of immediate, drastic attention. He then jerked his head towards the dead animal whose throat appeared to have been torn out. "I hope you gave it hell."
"Good. The Fearow?"
The dog made a high-pitched whine, looking at the sky.
"Dammit!" he hissed. Ami flinched. This man had been a scout, too. He recognized the uniform. And where there was a scout, there was bound to be other personnel within at least a sixty-mile radius (if not closer) from the military. He would have to take great care in laying some false trails now.
As he looked at the pale face of the dead scout, Edward wondered if he knew this man from the time he had spent in Orre's military. He had been in it nine years before he left almost a year ago--nine long years dedicated to a cause he hadn't even been sure he believed in. Edward certainly didn't believe in the military now, just as he no longer believed in anything that could be called God.
Pray to Mew or Arceus or Ho-oh all you like, he thought with a grimace as his eyes lingered on the two bodies. Watch what good it'll do you.
His grimace deepened. He needed to get rid of the bodies quickly, too. He turned to Ami, his voice rough as he tied a piece of cloth he had in his bag around her wound. It would have to do for now, but it would, with any luck, keep the wound clean enough until he could disinfect it properly.
"We need to bury them," he said pointedly. It was as much of a duty as it was a necessity.
Ami paused for a moment, scratching at the earth with her injured paw, testing it, before nodding.
"Keep your ears open then."
As he and Ami set to work digging a shallow, but passable, grave, he couldn't help think back to the time he spent in the military, when things had still been relatively calm. It hadn't always been an easy time, but it had been a welcome time when things had been as they should be, not driven by greed, fear, or power. It had been a false peace, but it had been peace nonetheless.
What he wouldn't give for that now.