The academy uniform looked strange to him. The newness of the fabric was at odds with the damaged wall it was hung against. He had gotten used to the stained tatters he wore, but this was the first time he’d felt an amount of shame in them. He kept shooting glances at the uniform on the wall while he worked to warm a small bowl of water. He couldn’t bring himself to try the clothes on before he’d attempted to bathe.

When the civil war broke out, he never expected to one day enlist in the Kings Standing Army. But now he didn’t have many other choices left available. Wringing the towel out and scrubbing himself, he idly wondered what life would have been like if the Government Reformation Order had won the war and taken control of the kingdom. He wasn’t sure what a parliament was, but it sounded confusing and inefficient. Why have a room full of people yell at one another when it was so much easier to simply do as the king said?

The soldier who helped him fill out his application forms had mentioned that the last of the Fifteen Bounties had been collected early last month, meaning there was nothing left of the GRO. After their leaders were executed and fifteen other influential people hunted down, there was no doubt the war was finally over. Not that there had been any major battles since the Last Stand of the GRO two years ago. Although not every Bounty was taken without incident, or even alive.

Finishing his bath, he carefully put the new uniform on. Lacking a mirror, he looked down at himself and guessed what he looked like wearing it. He still had a tough time thinking of himself as a soldier, but dressing the part helped. He had questioned his decision a number of times, but he always came back to the necessity of it. It was only a means to an end. He wanted this new life. He wanted to escape from this place and the memories it held.

Before he left, he took another look at the information packet the academy had sent after he’d enrolled. He had stopped calling himself anything, but now he had a new name. That was why he’d enrolled. That was what he wanted most. It didn’t matter to him what he was called going forward just as long as it wasn’t what he was called in the past. And that’s exactly what the first page of the packet gave him. A new name to match his new clothes. A chance to move forward. He was leaving this place and his old life behind to become someone new.

“Oak.” He repeated his new name back to himself as he spun the bracelet he wore on his left wrist. “I guess I can get used to that.”