“It smells.”

I wrinkled my nose as Manara took another strand of my hair, sighing.

“Obvi. I’m starting from scratch here.”

I settled uncomfortably into my chair, trying to hide my queasiness.

“When will it be over?”

“Commander, we’re just getting started.”

I tapped my fingers on the armrests impatiently, trying to ignore the smell of chemicals surrounding me.

That, right there, was hell. Actual hell.


“Shut up, Bob.” I muttered, “I’m scared enough.”

“You should be.” Manara commented, “I don’t know who recommended pink and purple. You would look hot in red.”

I turned, almost surprised at the near-compliment, but she turned my head back with a hand.

“I mean, somewhat less horrifying then what you have now.” She added, “If you straightened out the curls.”

I rolled my eyes, resisting the urge to bolt out of the chair.

“Gee, thanks.”

“Anytime, Z.” 

“Hey, Manara…” I started, “I…I know we haven’t talked for a while.”

“Yeah. No duh.”

“And…no hard feelings. About the castle.”

She stopped tugging at my hair for a second.



She hugged me from behind the chair, laughing as I let out a sound of annoyance.

“Okay, Z,” She started, returning to her task, “I was wondering, and I didn’t know whether I should ask you this or not since things were kinda awkward…”

“Yeah?” I asked, almost anxious.

“Do you know if Purgatory has any good malls? I mean, they all seem to be wearing grey all the time, so I guess they haven’t found out it’s out of season, but at the same time I could really go for a nice grey cocktail dress and blahblahblahhhhhhhh…”

I felt myself tuning out and, leaning my head back, nodded every few minutes.

“Yep. Yeah. Totally.” I affirmed, yawning.

Well, on the bright side, I was going to get a great nap out of it.

“Oh God!”

“It’s not that bad…” Manara offered, chewing her gum half-heartedly.

I looked in the mirror again, as if trying to confirm the horrors I’d seen.

“Not that bad?” I almost shrieked, “It…it’s purple! And…pink!”

“Hey, I did the best I could with what I got.” Manara shrugged, “And with that combat suit…nobody’s looking at your hair anyways.”

I gaped at her, not sure whether to be more horrified by what I saw or by what I heard.


“You know how it is.” She shrugged, “You’re the only female remotely near the front lines.”

I pulled a face.

“What? What about you?”

She smiled sadly.

“Not all of us are High Commander. I’m in the auxiliary forces.”

“So…you haven’t even fought yet?” I asked incredulously, hair momentarily forgotten.

“I’m usually on mercy duty.” She shrugged, “I have a small squadron of women under my command, who don’t see much more of the field than I do.”

I shook my head, stunned.

“I’ll have a word with Lucifer. This is ridiculous.”

“It’s not that bad.” Manara offered, “It’s…safe.”

“What’s safe isn’t always what’s good.” I sighed, “You’re just as capable as any male soldier, if not more, and you deserve a chance to prove it.”

She looked surprised for a moment, and then pleased.

“The King chose you well.”

“Maybe.” I shrugged, “But…at this point even my place on the front lines is in jeopardy.”

I turned back to the mirror, running a hand through my dark purple hair, grimacing as the pink streaks caught the light.

"I don't know," Manara chuckled, "He might be more accommodating than you expect."

The End

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