"Congratulations Rei, you're a lieutenant now."

Captain Graysin smiled and handed me the silver band that would signify my rank.

I stared at the band for a moment. How did I even get here? One minute I was 10 and the soldiers were telling me that my mother's death meant I would have to live in the orphanage. The next minute I was 16, joining the Amazonian army for work, money, and honor. And here I am now, 20 years old, an infantry officer being handed the officer band by Captain Graysin, the woman I had looked up to since I had been transferred to the Fort Spontania. It was all so surreal.

"Whenever you want to put it on Lieutenant" Captain hinted. I clasped the band around my wrist. It was heavier than I had expected. Guess that meant it was solid silver and not just coated. The Amazonian Infantry crest branded within it was the only thing to distinguish it from any other silver bracelet. The eagle of strength perched on one branch of the Sacramental Tree and the owl of wisdom placed on the other. I took a moment to compare mine to Graysin's . While I had one band now, Graysin had twin bands (one for each arm). Unlike mine, which was shiny and almost like jewelry, Graysin's were faded and worn. Her right band had several knicks and deep scratches in it, suggesting it had been the only thing between her and her enemies at some point.

"Your mother would be proud of you Rei."

I pulled my gaze from the rank bands and looked at her. She was about thirty years old with rich brown skin and dark brown hair. She was leaning against her desk and smiling at me.

"Thank you Captain. I really appreciate it. Speaking of appreciation, I heard that the bronze upstairs finally decided to show a little appreciation and promote you."

"You made me look good out there. So yes I am being promoted as well. I have to go down to Nikolorn to receive it though."

Her words floated around me for a moment, not sinking in. Captain was . . . leaving.

"Oh, but you'll be back in a few days though .. . right?" I asked. Captain sighed.

"Actually the promotion comes with a transfer. They want me further on the fringes of the Empire to train the recruits there. Turn the girls into soldiers, if you will."

"You can't leave! We still need you here!" I blurted. Captain Graysin squared her shoulders and clasped her hands loosely behind her back, the way she always did when she was about to give a pep talk.

"I can and will leave because I have orders to do so. And you are in no place to try to change that."

I dropped my eyes. She had warned me a lot about over stepping my rank, and now she was doing it again. When would I ever start learning and stop disappointing her? She continued on in a softer tone now, shifting from her authoritative to logical voice.

"Besides, it makes sense. The girls out there need me. Just like you and your comrades needed me. We need trained troops out there on the fringes."

"But who is will lead us if you leave? I can't! I'm not ready! They don't even listen to me! I still can't even get Ariel to wake up in the mornings!" I blurted in a flurry of words.

"Lieutenant! Breathe. First of all, no one is giving you command of this camp. Major Silva is the highest ranking officer here, even if she is cavalry, and she is more than capable of running things at the fort. As far as infantry goes, Lieutenant Corpa is still above you and if you are smart you will follow her lead. As things are, the bronze is not going leave this camp's infantry in the command of a lieutenant. They will send another captain."

She went to her desk and read one of the pieces of parchment on it.

"Goes by the name of Hopper. Her record is pretty good and I'm sure she will be a fine replacement. As for your platoon, just continue to be honorable, efficient, and compassionate and you will earn their respect. Continue to have their respect and they will continue to listen to you. And as for Ariel . . . you might want to try a bucket of river water.

It wasn't the greatest pep talk she had ever given, but it consoled me that I would not be in charge of the camp. And I was going to keep her suggestion of river water for my younger sister Ariel in mind.

"Now stop stressing over me and go show everyone your new rank. That's an order." She said with a mostly suppressed smile and a dismissive wave of her hand. I gave her a salute and headed out to fulfill the last order the Captain would ever give me.