Noble causes do not always coincide with noble acts and noble deeds.

One planet is rarely big enough for two factions.

The same community cannot adopt two religions that are so in defiance of one another.

And when there is a disagreement in the forty-second millennium, the most common course of action is to solve it at the edge of the swords and the barrel of the guns.

Such were the ways it was. Such were the ways it would always be.

On the once beautiful prairie of Maraii, the two armies came together, Imperial from the West, Tau from the East. There was no strategic value to be had in this place, nor did it offer any resource to utilize. Out of rage and bloodlusts and pressure, the commanders had merely sent their troops so that they could slaughter one another.

Hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers throwing their lives for the ideologies they had absolute faith in. There was no personal hatred, no grudge or vengeance, every man fighting and killing in the name of their empire and heedless of themselves. The fight was brutal in every way imaginable with no quarters given on either side. There was no room for compromise. There was no room for mercy. There was no room for regret. In this feast of flesh and metal, both were vindicated it was within their right to claim this planet, and both would do anything to make sure that happened.

With each soldier dead and each vehicle destroyed, the battlefield grew quieter and quieter. And as the last sound of gunfire and explosion was extinguished, two individuals emerged.

At the northern flank of the battlefield, a Guardsman opened his eyes and surveyed his surroundings. Dead bodies and dead tanks, Tau and humans alike, littered the battlefield which had now become little more than a wasteland. His head hurt badly, but he was not wounded. The last thing he remembered, the Chimera carrying him was ripped in half by a Tau Battlesuit. Miraculously, he survived the experience unscathed, but not without one of his squad mates (what was his name again?) smashing krak grenades into the suit which was lowering its flamer in an attempt to finish off the dismounted Guardsmen, killing them both. The same blast knocked him unconscious.

To the southern part, a Fire Warrior came round, his eyes scanning the remnant of the battlefield. Immediately, his vision became cramped with images of fallen warriors and wrecked vehicles from both sides. He was slightly concussed, but otherwise at full combat capacity. As far as he could recall, he had been knocked out when his Devilfish carrier took a direct hit from one of the Gue'la tanks. He was lucky to have pulled through. A comrade (was it Shas'la Raz or Otai?) brought his limp form out of the wreckage just as a hail of laser fire reduced him to paste. He never got to see his savior's face, and now it was too late.

The two began to wander in search for any valuable item to recover, any surviving comrade to make their heart warm, and any surviving enemy to finish the job. The Imperial moved south, and the Tau moved north and for a while, both found nothing of note. The battle had been so thorough that every bit of equipment was irreparably damaged, and every man killed with such certainty a Khorne Berserker would approve.

The found nothing, until they found each other.

For many brief seconds, they stared at the other, surprised, bewildered and exhausted. Neither made a single move nor emitted any sound, though both of them instinctively strengthened their grip on their respective weapon. For many brief seconds, the encounter between two members of two difference species was without violence or bloodshed. It was not long, though, before they remembered what they were supposed to do in this situation, and once that point had been reached, there was no turning back for either side.

Both had a quick moment to assess the situation and come up with the most appropriate respond. The Guardsman favored a rapid assault that would allow him to seize the initiative over a more cumbersome foe, but he half-guessed his opponent would be expecting so. The Fire Warrior knew a defensive maneuver would be best against an enemy that could only cause harm to him at closer range, yet fearing the adversary's quick response to that.

So they both did what their foe should have done instead: Imperial sprinting and diving for cover, Tau standing and shooting where he was. The Guardsman got behind the wreckage of a Leman Russ whose turret had been blown away just in time as plasma projectiles harmlessly slammed against the tank's hull. Not wanting to be out in the open, the Tau performed the same maneuver. He made it to the back of a shattered Hammerhead turned upside down right before a hail of laser fire punching into the vehicle's hull without causing any damage to it.

As they waited for each other's next move, the two pondered on their situation and what they could do to gain the upper hand in this fight.

The Guardsman knew he was better trained and had more experience, but the Tau made up for this by more advanced technology. Such lazy xenos, he murmured to himself. At far range, he could not hope to win as pulse rifle would outclass lasgun in terms of both firepower and accuracy. The only way for this was to find a way to close in where the lasgun's high rate of fire could even out the scale.

The Tau was jealous the human had been born with a stouter body that allowed him greater strength and flexibility, but he looked down at their pathetic equipment with vehemence. In any direct firefight, he stood a much higher chance of landing the killing blow before his opponent. However, he needed to watch out, for if his opponent caught him off-guarded, then he was as good as dead, lack of perception and heavy armor preventing him from changing direction quickly.

With neither coming up with a feasible, fail-safe tactic, the battlefield remained a quiet place. It was this kind of silence, coupled with the knowledge that an enemy was still around, that drove the soldiers mad. They wished to confirm their opponent was still there, and still after their skin.

"Give it up, Tau," shouted the Imperial. He needed to show the xeno his superiority, even if that was just a facade. "I have the advantage in this fight. Drop your weapon now and I promise I mean you no harm."

"You should be the one who should surrender," the Tau cried back. No Gue'la could be on his level of combat effectiveness, at least what he told himself. "Your effort is fruitless against the might of the Tau Empire. Instead of fighting it like a blind dog, come and join the Greater Good."

"Your ideology is built on nothing but lies and censorship. Open your eyes. Can't you see everything wrong with it from the top to the very bottom?"

"Said someone who worships a dead corpse on a throne. Look at yourself. Are you that mad that you cannot tell how your race is being destroyed by fanaticism?"

The Tau's words filled the Guardsman with rage, but he knew better than to express it openly, for in doing so, he did what his opponent expected a stereotypical servant of the Emperor would do, which was not entirely different from the truth. It was one of the few things he felt disgraced when serving the Emperor, His obnoxious fanatical servants. "What do you have to offer to us to make our lives better? Is trading not enough and now that you have to control our planets filled with our people entirely? And when a community fails to adopt your religion, you release biochemical to make its people sterile, condemning them to a deplorable slow demise."

The Tau was crimson with anger by what the Guardsman said. While he was disgusted to a certain point knowing his people classified much information concerning the fate of the humans who refused to join the Greater Good and not providing enough proofs to counter claims by the Gue'la, he was still convinced this was the lesser of the two evil compared to the blind faith that made up the Imperial Creed. "We always give up a choice, either to accept what we offer or we shall take what you have ourselves. Even if our sword has not fallen upon you, your stubbornness will doom you one way or another. Did your Imperium give our colonists a choice when they slaughter them across a hundred worlds indiscriminately?"

"Your religion teaches the importance of peace and unity," the Guardsman retorted. "And yet you wage wars against and grind to the ground anyone who does no adopt your ideas."

"And your Imperial Creeds identifies anything not human as a target for extermination," spat back the Tau. "How many of my people have died because of such simplistic, immoral idea?"

"We are exterminating each other all the same. At least our Imperium has the decency to be transparent about what we do. Your people are nothing but dishonorable cowards."

"What does honor have to do in any of this? Does it feed your children or keep you warm at night, Gue'la? Or is it an abstract concept your race and that traitor Farsight came up with to explain your dubious actions?"

Silence reigned between the two as they ran out of insults to one another. They both also realized the futility of continuing the battle orally, for whatever they had to say would be matched by a counter-argument from the adversary. Their teachings and religious faiths were like two sides of the same coin, both uniting them and leading their respective race to prosperity. Neither could ever dominate over the other, not without a considerable fight.

For a few intense seconds, none of the two made a move. Then, the tranquility snapped as both, unable to withstand the prolonging of this duel any further, sprang out of cover and let loose a volley at one another, screaming as they fired.

"For the Emperor!"

"For the Greater Good!"

Laser beams met plasma projectiles. All shots went wide. The lack of visibility from the smoke the draped over the battlefield like a blanket combined with neither being in their best mental form meant accuracy was pathetic at best. More burn marks appeared on already wrecked vehicles. Fallen corpses were turned over by impacts of shots.

A dual sound of clack indicated both had run out of ammo. At once, they sprang into cover to reload, but not before tossing a grenade at each other. The Imperial frag grenade was designed to create a rain of shrapnel that would maim the enemy, disabling them for the Guardsmen to come closer and finish them off. The Tau photon grenade was utilized as a means of defense, blinding the enemy at close range so that the warrior could ready himself or escape to a better position before dishing out the killing blow upon the confused foe. While the tiny pieces exploded from the frag grenade did not penetrate the combat armor of the Tau, the blast left him concussed and knocked him over. The Guardsman was unharmed by the dazzling explosion of the photon grenade, but his eyes burned even though they were protected by goggles.

Reloading took second. Disregarding their current conditions, both combatants engaged each other once more. The Guardsman rushed at the Fire Warrior's position while the Tau defended his spot from a charging human. Both knew this was the end game. It was them or the other, not both.

One laser shot connected, scoring a gash on the Tau's shoulder. It was only a flesh wound, and the intense heat cauterized it immediately, preventing further blood loss. The Tau ignored that one.

The Guardsman took a hit in the lower abdomen. It seared through his armor in a millisecond before doing the same thing to his flesh, evaporating any blood being bled. He went down.

The Fire Warrior felt a wave of relief rushing over him. He had been triumphant and would live to see another day while his enemy would not. Walking closer to where the Guardsman had fallen, the Tau shouldered his weapon, poised to deliver the execution shot to his enemy to make sure he stayed that way.

Pain engulfed the Imperial Guardsman. His wound was bad, but he was still alive and, more importantly, still able to fight. As the Tau got close to him, he bounced up like a corpse coming back to life, hoping to use the element of surprise to make up for his injury.

The Tau frantically pulled his trigger and missed. The Imperial barred him down and seized his weapon. Shouting and throwing obscene languages at each other, they struggled, fighting furiously for their lives. While the battle of strength was even, the battle of the minds was not. Even in this state, the Fire Warrior was unable to retain his full concentration over the situation and the fact he desperately needed to repel his attacker. His caste was simply not created with such psychological blessing; in fact, most of the Tau were incapable of such. His reactions were slow, and every move he made was easily countered by the human. Despite the pain nagging at him, the Guardsman held his nerve and focused entirely on what was important right now: to win this fight. All humans had superior senses to Tau, having gone through many major biological evolutions and even then, the Tau's overreliance on advanced technology had dampened their inherent abilities. His blows were not blocked, and they inflicted as much damage as he could hope for.

The struggle went on for two minutes before it was decided. The Imperial stood wobbly on his two feet, staring at the defeated alien beneath him. Battered and bruised, the Tau looked upon his would-be executioner. For the first time, their eyes met. No longer was there hatred. No longer was there the thirst of vengeance or the need to kill for a greater purpose. They were tired. They wanted some rest.

The Guardsman, pulse rifle in hand, prepared to go in for the kill, his hand on the trigger as his mouth recited a verse from the Infantryman Uplifting Primer. The Fire Warrior, no weapon to reach out for, accepted his fate, muttering a final whisper to his wife and children at home.

A loud bang caught both of them unaware. On the horizon of the west, blue fireworks lit up the sky, shot from Basilisks. In the east, the sky was illuminated by a networked series of beeps made by flying Tau drones. The two armies were trying to communicate with their troops on all fronts.

The Imperial message was interpreted as: "Cease all actions. The battle has been won."

The Tau message ran: "Our cause is lost. No need for any further unnecessary sacrifice."

The Guardsman looked at the fireworks and then at the Fire Warrior. Everything he had been taught impelled him to pull the trigger and put this alien to his grave. Yet, his conscience was not keen on that, and besides, what different would it make? His faction had already won. He had already won. If this action would show the Tau they were wrong and the Imperium was not a bunch of murderous savages who killed anything on sight, then let it be.

The Tau stared at the leaving human and then the pulse rifle which he dropped. His training told him to take the opportunity and make this human regret his folly. However, he felt uneasy at the thought of committing such shameless act that would ultimately change nothing. His faction had been defeated. The human spared his life even though he really should have not. Perhaps Farsight and his cronies were not so drunk when they talked about the concept of honor after all.

The Guardsman checked the bodies for a tourniquet to cover his wound. He then grabbed his regimental standard, still remarkably intact despite the tank it was mounted on a smoldering pile of charred metal. He and this piece of cloth were the only things left that indicate his regiment ever existed. Another battle was over, another victory in the name of the Emperor, no matter how empty it was. Though his regiment was in ruin, he would be assigned to another one, and dispatched to yet more battle. There was no time for respite, not in a galaxy torn by endless wars. Such were the ways it was in the Imperial Guards. Such were the ways it would always be.

The Fire Warrior searched his fallen comrades for some drug to alleviate his pain. Coming across the destroyed Crisis Battlesuit of his former commander which had the pilot compartment completely caved in, he took a single gemstone from the mess of meat and blood as a token for his burial. The battle was lost but not hope; the humans had no intention of pursuing further into Tau territory beyond this world, so defeat would not lead to a severe consequence. With his cadre annihilated, he would join another one before sent to the next combat zone. No rest would be had, not when there were enemies plotting to thwart the Greater Good. Such were the ways it was in the Fire Caste. Such were the ways it would always be.

With that, they departed from the battlefield. Imperial back to the West, Tau back to the East.

And as they left, their minds continued lingered on those who had not.

Author's note: This is my attempt at writing a story that puts both sides in the conflict on equal grounds, as in they are as good and as evil as the other. The point of view is completely impartial and unbiased. I feel like that is the thing with 40k, the question of who is good and who is bad has no real answer. The style is also my first time doing a rather poetic piece of writing with a clear storyline. Every part dedicated to one side will be echoed by a similar part for the other side.

The reason I choose a Fire Warrior and not a Chaos Cultist is because I want both characters to be able to review their ideology with more critical eyes. I already did with the Chaos humans with my other story, "A heretic's desire".

When I mention the Infantryman's Uplifting Primer, I mean the REAL one, not the parody one we know. The old one might have been the thing at one point, but recent changes made it completely out of place with the current core of the army, which is the Astra Militarum Codex.

I know some of you might be pissed off by the ending. I just don't find the ending where they both kill each other an inspiring one. And besides, that one is too predictable.