Chapter 20: A Leader's Burden

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Log #600: Kingdoms

It is impossible to create a society where there is no dissent and no desire for change; more often than not, these emotions give birth to splinter groups, or worse, terrorist organizations that use their disapproval of the system to incite violence. While Guardians help put down small-scale revolts and the like, if often takes active military pressure to disperse or dispose of larger splinter groups throughout the Four Kingdoms. Most groups, even the larger ones, last no longer than a month after they announce their existence to the world. Indeed, many may criticize the forceful methods of which the kingdoms dispatch such groups, but in a world where our predators bide their time just a wall away from humanity, there is simply no time for political dissent. Perhaps, when the day comes where Shade are a much lighter weight on our shoulders, a democracy can be opened up to include every citizen's political opinions. But for now humanity must focus on survival and growth. We will not repeat the mistakes of our last world by drowning ourselves in equality and politics. We will survive.

-General Elvira Ramos

160 BPE

There was no possible way to reach Fort Ramos by dusk. The primary reason was the fact that dusk had already settled upon us, and the fort was far enough away that it was hardly any bigger than a random barn. The trek would have to resume when dawn broke once again, so until then it was the duty of Chang and Marinos Squad to rest by the campfire and rejuvenate. Instead of camping out in the middle of a field, however, we agreed it would be smarter to head towards a small woods up one of the numerous hills around us. It was a bit of a detour, and an exhausting one at that, but the reward was having the high ground as well as a sheltered location to sleep off the night. And we couldn't just not have the high ground. My squad members were sent out to collect firewood, while Miranda ordered her Squad to blaze a perimeter for the night. Meanwhile, she and I set up the sleeping bags around our chosen location.

Barely any time had passed since starting that task before Miranda grew bored of the silence.

"Hey, Alison, how's leader-status going for you? I mean, how does it feel?"

"Well, it's definitely not easy. I find the challenge exhilarating, though. I guess I ought to be content with how things were before such a responsibility, but I guess it always just felt a little... empty, if you know what I mean. What about you, though? No offense, truly, but you don't look like a natural-born leader at first glance."

She paused for a moment, considering the question. "I can't really argue against that, since you pretty much hit the nail on the head. Hehe, I guess you're right. I'm shy, conservative, and totally out of my element leading four other teenagers. So I guess I'm a lot like you, in the sense that it's a challenge, at least. Haha..." She laid out the bedding that she'd been unfolding, and collapsed on her back. She rested an arm over her face with a sigh, her long black hair spreading out under her back. "It's tough, but I don't wanna quit. When you have parents who ask for no more than academic success and you turn your back on all of that to join an academy for warriors, there isn't much room for not excelling. The second I slip up, Mom and Dad will pounce on me for not heeding their advice, and who knows what'll happen then?"

I could feel shame rising in my chest. I'd never even considered her relationship with her family. Despite her shy and delicate behavior, her parents' disapproval was always in the forefront of her thoughts. Despite that pressure, all she wanted is to get them to understand her. The revelation was intriguing, and I found myself struggling to not ask her to elaborate in order to be polite. Instead, I went for a different, less intrusive approach.

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