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FanFic Title: Age of Heroes
Chapter 61-70: ANOTHER KINGDOM
Author: keikoku
Date Published: July 30th, 2015


CHAPTER 61:ANOTHER KINGDOM
HARALD ALAN
I have arrived at Arleans and have been greeted with great civility from the House of Orleans. It seems battles are being waged around here in Vangua but no war is declared. It is usually a skirmish and there is no big scale battle.
It seems there is a little political instability here in Vangua.
I could sense that the first moment I arrived at the Port of this nation. Everybody seems to be in a tense atmosphere which makes me confident that there is something happening in this nation.
I do not know what it is until I reach the castle when I was finally told about the recent events that happen in Vangua.
My fate after I was send to Dostov was an unfortunate one.
With my defeat in Dostov and my grandfather death, who even I do not know very well, but he seem to try to understand me and genuinely care about the family and my mother.
Fortunately the patriarch of the house, Lord Arlean is a close friend to my father.
I heard the story.
My father is dead killed by the dragon. I was supposed to be sadder. But I can’t fake that feeling. There is no love lost between me and my father.
Hearing it I was enraged but not because he killed my father because of what happens next.
By changing the law in the Alan Dukedom now known as Aetherland my uncle has denied me of my rights to the crown.
My uncle created a dynasty of his family as the reigning King.
But not of his brother offspring.
The fact the Alan name is removed from the new Kingdom name is a sign of his intention of denying me claiming the throne. Not only that but also the fact that they even name the race of the Caelum to Aether.
Zettel has no problem with it, so is Vern but that is mostly because their Kingdom is in decline and picking a fight with Aetherland with it’s alliance with Zettel and Seren is a bad idea politically and economically.
Thinking about my uncle brings me the memory of my father. My harsh and unforgiving father. My father who has a very violent temper.
My father is not a kind father.
Far from it. He is not caring or affectionate, he is no attentive and he couldn’t care less about me. I always envy West and his family.
Henry Palais is a little arrogant but when it concern his son, he try to do right by him. I always envy that about West. And West also try to do right for his family.
My father never gives me a compliment.
If anything he likes to undermine my efforts.
So, I felt no remorse on hearing him dead. But……that does not mean I do not think of him. Whatever his faults, he’s my father.
With our family connection in Dostov and Alan no longer existed and those who have sworn loyalty to us has abandoned us we are in a vulnerable position.
But thanks to lord Orleans we are safe here from our enemies. Even if the Vermont knows we are here, trying to hunt us here would be no easy task.
Vangua is almost as big as Vern.
Not to mention the Vermont don’t have many influence here in Vangua. The traders trade with them but in other spectrum of the political power in Vangua not many can be influenced by the Vermont.
They are Caelum and not only that, their wealth even intimidate some of the lords here in Vangua.
That is why they are wary of that house. They have in recent years emerged as one of the major players in the human continent.
In Vangua on the other hand, the kingdom is rocked with the disappearance of the King.
The word is that the king of Vangua, Edward Merovich disappeared and no one knows where he is now.
Usually in other countries they already will began fighting to decide who gets the top if the King died, but here….the situation is different.
The King is not dead.
He disappeared to thin air which means he is still alive and well somewhere.
And that left a dilemma.
March to the capital and that would be a direct act of treason. Surely people would remember him as an unhonourable person and his rule will never be recognized by the common people.
This few weeks I have joined lord Orleans in his strategy discussion. He has found it in his best interest to keep me inform of the political happening in Vangua. It seems Jean Arleans has a plan.
I did not complain and I help him formulate strategies.
Politics after all is the same everywhere.
People that hate you, people that benefits you.
My mother urges Lord Orleans to marry her daughter to me like it has been promised during a meeting a few years ago when my father met him. He agreed which surprises me.
I have nothing to offer.
I do not know his endgame but I recognize the benefits of having a lord of such caliber backing my family.
Today I’m meeting Emilia for the first time. I was heading to the Grand Hall to meet Emilia when I heard footsteps behind me.
‘Harald!’ I turn around.
‘My lord’ I greet Lord Jean
‘Yes, Harald.’
‘How are you this morning?’ he said and he look at my face and ask me
‘Nervous my lord.’
‘HAHAHA’ he laughed.
Then he looked at me again and his eyes beaming.
He looked outside of the balcony and watches the green horizon from his castle.Like he is reminiscing about something
‘I know your father you know?’
I nodded
‘I know my lord’
Then he began talking about his old memories of my father. It seems my father left quite the impression on him.
‘He is charismatic and strong. But he is also full of pride and headstrong and very single minded.
When I heard he orchestrated the bloody feast I know what he intends to do. Your father and uncle is not so different.’
He shakes his head.
‘No, no, no they are quite different. My mistake.’ He smiled to himself.
‘Your father intended to create an independent nation, stronger than any other kingdom, but the way he go around it is wrong.
I have always advised him that he would be in opposition in every corner if he goes through with his plan.
I warn him that even if he succeeds his Kingdom will be almost bankrupt. But alas, no words of my advice ever reach him. Like I said……single-minded.’
I nodded again.
‘Yes…..my father has always been single-minded in everything. One of his strength and weaknesses.’
Lord Jean just nodded in agreement
‘You mean to say my father end goal has always been the creation of a Kingdom’
He nodded
‘Yes that was his intention’
‘But my uncle also does the same thing. Does that mean he’s also the same as my father?’
‘No he’s not.’
‘What makes you say that?’
‘He did not want to become king, your uncle, he was forced to. Aries the Kingmaker.’ He said and he look at me. I understand.
It is the Vermont that elevate the King position with their connection with the Church.
‘I met both of them you know. Your uncle is the peaceful one. Your father is the strong one and he has a visions.
But his vision must spill a lot of blood before it can even be realized. It will even destabilize the region if he has to.
But do not mistake me.
I cannot fail to mourn his fate, for he is my closest friend. His gifts as an able commander and a lord that can inspire people to die for him raised him above his contemporaries and made him a worthy opponent of the Vermont family, especially Arial the Dragon. He lacked only that final spark of genius that set Lord Arial apart.’
I could not help but agree with his statement.
‘So you already knew of his plan?’
He nodded
‘I suspected. He is always talking about it.’
Then for a while silence.
‘My daughter?’ he said to me like a question
‘Yes my lord’
‘Treat her well, since your mother is so insisting in this wedding.’
‘I know my lord and I bowed slightly ‘ but why do you agree with the request of my mother?.
He sighed.
‘We are both practical person Harald, at least that is how I hope you to be. Right now Vangua King is nowhere to be found and Aetherland with it’s alliance with Seren and Zettel are slowly emerging to become a nation of great power.
On the other hand racial divide is turning our Kingdom divided’
‘Then why does no lord march to the capital?’ I asked
‘Because we can’t.
We all conspire to oust the King from his throne on the grounds of his race domination over us. But I am Frankish blood but I also have the blood of Anglais from my mother side.
If I march to the Capital then the Raxons,Loth and the Ethrusk will all have a problem with a Frank lording it over them.
We have been accustomed to being ruled by the Caelum that we did not even let other race take that place.
Ironic isn’t it? We don’t like that the Caelum has always been lording it over us, but we hate it more when our equal supposed themselves as our lord King. No offense’ he looked at me.
I smile. After all if we are talking about Caelum race my ancestor is one of the purest bloodline of Caelum. But not me. I am half Caelum. Caelum from my father side, Anglais-Raxons from my mother side.
‘None taken’ I said
‘So?’
‘So if you married Emilia, your son or daughter will have the blood of Caelum preserving the line of Kings which would appease the other kings, Cori, Vern, Dostov and the rest of the Continent can be pacified, which will deter them at least to invade this Kingdom under the pretense of installing a Caelum King on the throne’ and he smiles
It is not the first time it happen. In the time of Vern Empire the Ragged King is of Eastian descent, and many of the other Kings sworn to the Imperial family were displeased.
Renasia is different in that they intermarried so much in their royalty that it is hardly a matter of race for them but more a matter of pride. George the Wise even had to personally lea the army that put down the Ragged King.
So to say that if one King in the Human Continent could not establish their descent to at least a Caelum descent, the throne can be claimed. The domination of the Caelum race aover all the races of the Human Continent has never been questioned.
After all it was our ancestors that created settlements and with Levitia, the greatest of the Caelum saves the people of the Human continents from the tyranny of the Demon Lords.
It is what George did when he want to claim Eastiana which is now Vern. It is also the same move he used when the Etrushkan Council has political power in Cori.
‘He called himself Aether but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a Caelum, pureblooded,’ Lord Jean said remarking on my uncle decision to change the name of Caelum race which has only been change once and that is from Levitia time. ‘and at the same time your claim to the throne, or to be more precise my claim to the throne, does not offend the other lords of other race. Brilliant isn’t it?
I nodded
Then he looked at me and said
“It is magnificent isn’t it?
‘What is?’
‘The Caelum is one of the minorities in this Continent, not many come from a pure bloodline anymore. But every administration post of importance is always held by their race. It invites envy and induces bitterness.’
I smile
So this is what he wants from me. An heir to the throne. Which means he is eyeing the throne of Vangua. One that can trace back their descent to Caelum descent.
Such lofty ambition. But he has another daughter called Amelie. She is young and prim. I met her once in the courtyard accompanying her sister playing the harp. Maybe she will get married to some of the lords that might prove favorable to Lord Jean ambition.
‘What about Cori?’
‘That I can handle.’
Then a middle aged woman come to me and handed me a letter. Emilia nurse
I looked at the letter and read it.
I turn to the lord and say
‘Forgive me my lord it seems your daughter wants to meet me in the courtyard.’
The lord nodded.
‘Go then.’ The h grinned at me
‘My daughter doesn’t like being made to wait.’
****************************************************************************
COURTYARD
Central open air courtyard brings the fresh breeze of spring. I could see her from here, her figures waiting for me. I take a deep hard breath and began walking to her.
‘You are late my lord’ the woman said.
She is pale, in a good way, her eyes are large and her cheeks are rosy.
She looks petite and cute.
Her eyes are blue and her hair is red with long straight silky hair that reaches just above her hips.
Fire and Ice.
I bowed lightly when I see her. She noticed me bowing and she bowed too. A noble lady of high upbringing.
‘I was being held up by your father.’
‘Father?’ she said like she is calculating something. She gesture to her handmaiden.
‘Yes.’ I reply
‘Please sit down my lord’ the handmaiden, a young woman guides me to the seat.
‘It is fine’
The lady stands marveling the garden.
‘Fiona, you can go’ the lady said.
She nodded and without a word she went out from the courtyard.
‘So. It seems you will be my husband’
I nodded
‘And it seems you will be my wife.’
She turn back slowly and look at me.She looked at me, with an amused look, that unsettled me.
I ask her
‘Why?’
‘Why what?’
‘Why meet me?’
She giggled a bit and then she answers.
‘I prefer to look the man I’m about to marry and see if he is worthy of having me’
‘And now?’
‘Now what?’
‘Now that you have looked?’
‘You have quite the feature’ she said smiling and turns back her gaze to the gardens.
Vague answer.
‘So, is that a compliment? Or an insult?’
‘What do you think it is?’
‘I will take it as a compliment’ I said
‘As you should my lord.’
I look at her back figures and for a moment all I can hear is the sound of the wind and the chirping of the birds that fly around the garden while Emilia just look in the distance, not talking about anything.
‘So, is that all?’ I asked
She didn’t seem like she wants to talk.
She sighed.
‘Do you know why we are getting married?’ she asked
She did not need to know that her father is trying to gain power in the Court so I said
‘It is because our families are close and your father is convinced that I would treat you right’ she turned around and looked at me with a wry smile.
‘A gentleman’ she said.
‘There is no need to speak lies on my behalf my good lord. I know of my father ambition for the vain title of the King. I never understand the obsession that title has over men. They fight for it, die for it. Life of a farmer is peaceful than a King, I often times wondered.
Kings have to endure sacrifice, heartache, plots and intrigue yet they covet the position even more. It is men quest for ruination that always amazes me to no end’ she said and she smiled at me, scanning me.
‘And you, my lord? Do you too seek the same?’
I was shocked of course. Woman rarely interfere in the matters of politics and the fact that she knew is unsettling.
I know that many ladies know that their marriage is being used as alliance marriage but not all daughter of a lord is obliged to comply.
After all, a happy marriage means a happy family so usually the ladies will tell their lord father who they are fond of and if their father agrees, then they will get married.
Forcing a girl to marry other men is frowned upon by the Church after all but that doesn’t mean it does not happen. And this girl in front of me doesn’t seem like she can be forced. Which means she is doing this for her house.
I shakes my head.
‘So, you knew’
‘Yes. I knew.’
‘Then the reason-‘ And she cut me off.
‘The reason I want to meet you is because I need to see the man that father has chosen for me. He takes you in not because he want to expand his influence but only to honour his friend. It is the only time my father has made such move that will not benefit him.’
‘Is that so?’ I said and I remember Lord Jean plan for my offspring
She shakes her hand
‘I do not mean to offend you my lord. I just……we are getting married. At least I would like us to have an amiable relationship. Perhaps, if we get to know each other….we might even fell in love.’
‘Like you said…this is a political marriage.’ I said
‘Yes. But a marriage not started with love in the beginning doesn’t mean that it has to be that way forever’ she said.
I smile. And she smiles.
I nodded.
‘You are right. It seems I have been deal with a card. Better make use of it’ I said
‘That is what I’m talking about.’
So I approached her and instead of looking at her I look at the very same direction she is looking.
And if my eyes did not mistake me I could see a hint of smile traced around his lips. We just stand there looking at the same direction without saying anything and I know it….my journey is just beginning.
****************************************************************************
HARALD ALAN
LORD OF AQUITANIA
1015 FALLMONTH
ARLEANS CASTLE
The year is 1015 Fallmonth. 2 months has passed
The elderly Lord Jean is seated on his cushioned chair woven with beautiful fabric, in a secret conference with Lord Pierre Bascogne and with me Harald, Lord of Aquitania after being conferred the title by Lord Jean a few days ago.
This past month my father in law has unified the rebelling lords under the Vangua crown. But still the King position is not yet determined.
He sits in the chair, pale, full bearded and tired.
He is wearing a blue robe and he is here today to announce a matter of grave importance. He has been shot with a poison arrow in the Ryons area.
And now as he surely knows is life is about to end. He is discussing the line of the succession. He has no male heir and thankfully I have married Emilia a few weeks ago. The poison has been dispelled but his body has grown weaker.
We may not love each other like any other couple but our relationship is cordial and amiable and maybe someday that feeling will develop into love.
The state of affairs in Vangua right now is not…..peaceful.
With the rebellion and revolts uprising and peasant asking the King to return and the nobles blaming the Orleans family for their part in forcing the King to flee, Arleans and it’s surrounding areas are in grave danger of being taken by other lord.
Lord Pierre Bascoge has sworn fealty to jean a long time ago, and a great friend of the family. I was already informed by Emilia about what is going to happen today.
I have been helping consolidating the Orleans power in Vangua using my knowledge and experience in the previous war to benefit the Orleans family goals.
There are a lot in my mind right now. There is the Hooded Man I sent to Acro,then there is also the matter of the succession of this duchy.
Emilia has persuaded her lord father to give the land to me, and we will rule it together, side by side.
She may not be the most beautiful woman, but her talents in politic only rivaled that of my grandfather.
With the support we receive from other Anglais-Raxons lords the Orleans has become quite predominant more than before.
But even before, the Orleans family has held many clouts in the administration. I have been campaigning in the South against the Loths and the Etrushk and the Leof.
I have made quite a reputation for myself as a formidable entity and loved by the high society because of my lineage that trace back to Alan Gerhardt.
I’ve been campaigning against a Lothian King who try to secede from the Kingdom. Aided by Lord Pierre I returned to Arleans in triumph, presenting the King head to Lord Jean.
Maybe in that moment, I seem to be a worthy successor and instead of next year, he quickened the marriage dates so last week I was finally married to Emilia with all the splendor that the household can afford.
Surely, by now the Vermont’s have finally know where I am.
Before I can hide under obscurity but now?
I doubt that.
But even though Arial now Prince Arial a title conferred by Aetherland King, my uncle, knows I’m here, he will not be so stupid to come across and bring his army here, not when they have just return home from a long and taxing war.
‘Harald’ the tired lord gestured to me.
He stoops towards me and speak to me with low voice.
Our forefingers touch. And then he looks at me with an enigmatic silence. He knows his time is near and Death is calling.
Lord Pierre also knows that and he know why he is here, on one of the last moment of the great patriarch of this household.
This meeting, this secret meeting, somehow I believe it at this moment, whatever the outcome, will set in a motion, a chain of events that would change history.
Succession did not solely depend on who had the closest kinship, though this is of course a persuasive factor.
‘I am dying’ and his word broke the peaceful silence
I nodded.
Lord Pierre nodded.
‘I summon you here Pierre because I will ask you to swear fealty to the next lord of Arleans, my son in law Harald Alan. May you find him to be a generous and wise lord. Do you swear it?’
He looked at me and then he looked at Jean and he nodded.
‘I swear it by my honour and I bear witness to his lordship over me.’
‘Good.’ He smiled and then coughed a little. The poison is weakening him.
‘There is a reason I called you here other than to swear fealty. The throne of Vangua.’
And we looked at each other.
‘You will take it for my family’ he pointed his finger at me.
‘Father- in law I-‘
‘You will take it for my family. Now give me a suggestion how you can take it under the watchful eyes of the other lord.’
Then I give him ideas and Pierre also contribute but none address the issue. There is always something not right with the plan.
If we take the throne without a justifiable cause we will be looked down upon but not taking it will only increase the instability in the Kingdom. Even now some lords is even thinking of seceding from the Kingdom to form a petty Kingdom.
Then I got an idea.
‘Then how about this my lord? Create a council from the lords, the great and the powerful in the lands and let them reach major majority as to who they chose the next King. Using the council as a pretext, no one can blame us taking the throne. It was a duty imposed on us.’
‘How are you sure the lords will choose us?’ he asked
‘How can they not? Your house is one the richest and powerful. They would be stupid to defy your house.’ Lord Jean nodded.
‘Yes this can work.’
‘How about the King?’ Pierre asked.
‘The King has run away. If anything he is a coward.’ Jean nodded again and smile.
Lord Pierre also nodded enthusiastically
Then under the darkness of the night we hatched our plots for the throne of Vangua.
******************************************************************************
Vern now is not the Vern in past.In the past Vern capital is situated in Vangua before the Divide where they moved to Eastiana and named it Vern for the namesake of the Empire.

CHAPTER 62: THE ARRIVAL
EDWARD MEROVICH
1015 FALLMONTH
We have reached Acro but the young lord does not return yet to the city.
So under the advice of my loyal lord we disguise ourselves and live indefinitely in the Sleeping Dragon an inn in the city.
One of the many inns in this prosperous city. The atmosphere all indicates that this city is a very civilized city and influential.
The Acro citizens deserves their fames with the scholars all around the city and merchants at the ports while the Peacekeeper patrol the ever growing city,
This city or region of Arrandy is also unique in that it gives citizenship to even other races that is foreign so different from other Kingdoms that only embrace the culture that has already existed during the Secession.
For this past month looking at the city and it’s inhabitants no wonder people call it the Jewel of the Continent.
It is prosperous, ships come all the time to trade, foreign language can be heard in the port. People bustling around in the marketplace, merchants smelled of spice all fill the city.
The guards in the castle are all trained and from what I can see even though Arrandy is under the Crown of Aetherland it seems the King give the House of Vermonts quite the autonomous reign over their land.
Home to philosophers, merchants, and spice prince from Ariundus. A land of excess and wealth. And freedom unprecedented compared to the other Kingdom and with no interference from the King.
It seems appropriate after all.
The dragon won him the crown.
By now everyone has heard.
The young lord is returning after killing Alderam in the North and many of it’s inhabitants are already preparing a festival while the castle is busy preparing a feast. The Duke of Arrandy Aries Vermont have prepared all for his son return.
It seems Aries loved his son very much. And the common folk also loved his son. Aries Vermont is also blessed with a daughter who is by now is 1 year old.
From what I heard he spare no expense in decorating the castle and he has already begun sending invitations to other lords to come.
Even before seeing the young lord I am already amazed by him. From the story he is paint as a warrior of tremendous caliber and a genius in the battlefield.
Some merchants even gossips that it was the young lord that transforms one of the abandon county into one of the most wealthiest Dukedom in the Kingdom with traders and merchants and scholars from the whole world come.
A hub of trade and knowledge.
Today I sit again in the table in my room accompanied with only my books. Ethel will return a couple of moments from now, like he always do.
In here he addresses myself as Edward fearing our disguise will be revealed. If its revealed my life and the life of my people will be jeopardized
‘What did you hear?’ I said once Ethel comes in. He fan his face with a rough hide of hat.
He is tasked in finding information and hear any gossip or worthy information about what happens in Vangua.
‘Bad news’ Ethel said while he sits himself in the chair.
‘How bad?’
‘The Orleans has begun to move.’
I release a deep sigh.
Vangua. My homeland.
Now coveted by the very same family that might have killed my father. I have tolerated them with no choice when they came back after their exile and now I’m paying the price.
A miasma of warfare, conquest and blood and carnage will surely follow if I delayed returning home.
Even now the Orleans is plotting to take the throne. This I knew. Surely even as I sit here worrying about my life, plots and alliances is being forged right now.
‘What are they plotting?’
‘Nothing conclusive but I have heard that they are planning to form a council.’
‘For what?’ He shakes his head.
‘I do not know.’ I sighed again
I could not return to Vangua without an army and put myself at risk. Put the people that believe in me at risk.
And I cannot be unmindful of my father fate. Maybe I could call back my bastard brothers in Ranoa, exiled by my father asking for his support.
Quickly I shake my head. He is too impulsive.
Too hard and brutal.
That is why father exile him in the first place. And there is no guarantee he will help me. He would sooner kill me that help me probably. The problem with bastard brother is that. You never know where his loyalty stands.
But the Orleans?
I could not forgive the family who plotted to kill my father but as weak am I, need to be patient. There is many reason I wanted to be King. Kingship is a prize worth having.
The king had considerable reserve and residual powers: no one else could tax directly or issue coinage; a monarch could break the low lords and minor lords, declare him outlaw, and so come into possession of all his lands and property; and had sole command of national armies and fleets.
Great nobles, with estates in several region and small freeholders, all held their lands provisionally from the king and in return owed him some service, rent or remuneration.
And to do that I need armies.
And the dragons have it.
A strong, disciplined army, a professional force, probably the greatest institution that the dragons advanced the most with their great wealth.
It is ironic that while the city is at the height of civility and gathered many of the greatest minds in the continent, it is the army that probably benefited the most from the wealth of the dragon.
As Caelum himself and from what I hear, the young lord is a man that is fill for patriotic love for his nation and it is obvious to anyone paying attention in this past couple of years that the young lord has been strengthening the Kingdom, and defending and fortifying key positions in the border both at the border in Vangua and at the Blessed Lands.
Especially his border.
‘Hmm…’I said
‘So what should I do next my Lord’ Ethel said looking at me waiting for his order
‘We wait. Wait for the dragon to come home.’
And pray that he would help us.
******************************************************************************
ARIAL
1015 FALLMONTH
HOUSE COUNCIL CHAMBER
I open the door and the other lords bowed as I approached the center chair.
‘So is there anything I need to know’ I said as I sit on my chair in the House Council. Fenwick bowed and I gesture to him to speak up.
‘My lord first of there is a letter from the other Kings and nobles that have congratulated you and some of them would be honored if you could come to their feast’
‘No, I would be busy here now. I don’t have time to go anywhere else. Reject their invitation but say something nice.’
Fenwick nodded.
‘Barden, how about our trade?’
‘Yes my lord.’ He said as he opened his parchment and reported it to me.
‘It is progressing and now that the road to the north is open we can resume trading with Taijian in the Taiguo region again.’
‘Can we open trade center there? Did we already get permission from the ruling house there?’
‘We have my lord, provided we give them 5 percent of the cut.’ He handed me the documents. I looked at the projected income and profit and I decided it is worth it.
‘Give it if they want it. The potential of opening trade post in Vern, the profit we will reap is beyond than what we will have if we open in other region of the Continent. Vangua and Vern is one of the largest Kingdoms in the Continent.’ I said smiling already counting.
‘Yes my lord’ Barden nodded as I return back the document to him.
‘Oliver, any news?’
‘Yes my lord’ he said and he leaned forward.
Oliver is my Spymaster and he is good in his job. Very good.
‘I got some news but I do not know whether it is true or not.’
‘Tell me all the same’
‘There is some news that there is some movement in the dark lands but it is unverifiable.’
‘Movement? What movement?’
‘Some people reported seeing an army is marching to the Blessed Land but the next day they said it disappeared.’
I perked up. This is….impossible. I should have two more years if we are going by the law of time.
Or did I mess time too much? Did the order become messed up? Two years. 1017. That is when it should have happened.
‘So what then?’
‘That is all’
‘That couldn’t be all!’ I said raising my voice.
Oliver quickly get fluster, his calm demeanor is abandoned.
‘My lord, I speak truth. There is nothing more than that.’
‘Massey!’
‘Yes my lord.’
‘Strengthen the defense around the Wall.’
‘My lord?’
‘Do as I say!’
‘Yes’ he nodded.
‘Anything else?’ I said to Oliver.
‘Edward Merovich.’
‘ Yes what about him?’ This dampened my spirit. I thought he would give me more news about the movements in the Dark Lands. After all that is the only thing that matters.
‘I have it on good authority that he is in our Kingdom right now.’
‘And what do you want our lord to with that information?’ Massey said.
‘Our lord ca-‘ and I cut off Oliver words.
‘I will do nothing. Vangua politics is no consequence of ours.’
‘Understood.’ He said ‘and I have some other news.’
I gestured him to speak.
‘ We have known where Harald is.’
Now this something I need to know. His whereabouts is unknown even to Henry and other lords that is with Alderam that day.
‘Where is he?’ I asked
‘Vangua under the protection of House Orleans.’
‘Hmmm.I suspected as so, considering they are betrothed. But I never dare to make an uneducated guesses. Brilliant’
Oliver held his hand up
‘Yes?’
‘There is also a letter from Renasia’
‘I said I won’t go didn’t I! Their congratulations are well appreciated but I have no interest in going to their party.’
‘This is not from their royalty my lord .It is from the Princess personally.’
‘Princess. Rhyssa Renasi? That Princess?’
The Virgin Queen. At least that is how she is called in my time. She never married and it was said that she never lost a battle until of course she lost against the swarming horde of the Demon Invasion.
‘Yes my lord. I think it was kind of odd, so I take it upon myself to present it to you’ Oliver grabbed a letter from his bag and handed it to me.
I take the letter and open it with a knife. The seal is a sun and a knife around it.
From: Princess Rhyssa Renasi
To: Lord Arial Vermont, Duke of Arrandy, Count of Acro, Baron of Danoba.
It is my honour to invite you to my party to celebrate your victory in the war and at the same time celebrate Renasia victory in Tuca.I am waiting for a favourable reply. It would be nice to see you again, my lord.
See you again?
Did I ever meet a Princess?
‘Well my lord?’
‘Decline it. She must be mistaken somehow. Say that I am plagued with many matters so I regretfully could not attend her ball. I doubt she will be disappointed and Renasia is far away from here. It would take maybe how many months?’ I said.
‘Fine, will do my lord’ Oliver said as I handed back the letter to him.
‘Oh, Barden before I forget send some gold and precious items to the Austen for helping us halt the Verman movement in Vern.’
‘Yes my lord.’
‘Massey, I will be inspecting the army this evening so you can go first. The other too’ I gestured.
They all stand up and begin turning their heels
‘Not you Bishop Paul. You stay.’
The other looked back.
‘Go.’
I said and they all quickly went outside the chamber.
‘Sit.’
‘Yes my lord.’
‘The church.’ I said suddenly
‘Do you know anything about the recent events that happens in the Grand Papnoticon?’
‘My lord’
‘You are a bishop. I am sure you know something. Why did they ravage the Academy? And why Orval? What he had to with whatever the Church is plotting?’
‘I sincerely don’t know’
‘Sincere?’ I scoffed.
‘Yes my lord. But…but I do hear something.
‘What things?’
‘It seems that the word from the Holy Church is that Orval and his companion is involved in some shady enemies of the church.’
‘Enemy of the Church? And what, who is that?’
‘Take your pick my lord.’
‘Are you or AM I asking the question?’ I said raising my voice.
‘No my lord, I….forgive me.’
‘Hmph. Is that all you know?’
‘Yes my lord.’
I moved around in the chamber while trying to digest this information. An enemy of the Church? Who? What? Where?
‘You can go Bishop.’
‘May God bless you my lord’ he said as he went outside the door.
‘May he will’ I said.
******************************************************************************
BARRACKS
I have arrived with Fire bringer to the stables and quickly I handed the horse to the stable master.
The armies have also begun recovering themselves and their salary is paid in full as they celebrate their victory with their loved ones, and tells story in the tavern and bards and minstrel sang their song.
The kingdom atmosphere was of joy in glorifying these warriors and happy that their young son and fathers all return to their family safe.
My return was celebrated with 3 days festivals and a week of feasting among the lord.
This couple of days I have been thinking whether to annul my marriage with Helia.
I wanted to annul it……because my life has a time limit. Because of the poison that afflicted me.
But I can’t.
She is my……last hope for happiness. She makes me believe the impossible. I know I don’t say it enough, and express it enough.
It’s not because of modesty. It’s because I never let myself be…...engulfed with that feeling. Love…..dulls my motivation. But she is home for me. Like my parents. Like Lisa and Kyle. They are home for me.
If even I succeed in my mission…if there is nothing waiting for me at the end of the road what good would it be?
So….selfish as it may be…..I will make her mine.
For these two years, the time that I will spend with her, will be spend in eternal bliss. That’s the only way I can redeem myself when I’m gone.
I will hold her and she will hold me.
Even in darkness and horrors that looms in front of us, even though it does not make it go away, but when I hold her I feel safe….no….that is not it.
I feel…..better.
And even though if she find out and cried her hearts out, I will whisper to her. “It’s all right” Even though the end is near and the nightmare is still there it is better. With her…….I’m better.
“I’m here. I love you” I will whisper it to her.
And for a while the nightmare doesn’t seem so bad.
I cannot protect her from the grief that surely would follow, this I know.
But I will watch from beyond this life after I’m gone. And I will do my best to make sure she live the life she deserve, loved and happy.
Before I leave this world, I want to make sure that everyone that I love and care, are all going to be fine after I’m gone.
And for that I need power and influence. I was content on only governing this part of the Kingdom but I hear about Harald in Vangua, making a name for himself and allying himself with some of the major house there, which only increase my anxiety.
What if he comes here looking for trouble or demand back the throne. Not to mention there is the other business of me killing his father. Revenge can also be his motive.
Of course Adrian has created the law or remakes it to be more to make sure nothing like that happen but I know. And Harald know. In this era, the only law is strength.
So right now here I am in the barrack as I begin outlaying a new organization to my armies. I have created three divisions.
The Red Dragon, the Blue Dragon and the Golden Dragon.
And also the title in my army. Instead of a Knight Lord or some noble leading the march I promote those who are capable.
Vice-Captain controls the 100 man unit. Captain control the 500 man unit.
Vice Lieutenant led the 1000 man unit. Lieutenant controls the 5000 man unit. Vice Commander led the 10 thousand man unit and Commander led the 30 thousand man
There is a hierarchy where the lower one report to the bigger one but in times of war every unit can in emergency acted under one unit leader making it very flexible.
The Supreme Commander which is me controls all the troops.
Transferring between troops to other units are prohibited unless under my order.
Since Arrandy is quite autonomous, and the wealthiest it is only appropriate that we have this large of an army.
A private army like this is advantageous for me because I do not need to let them go after the time expired.
There is a law that we can’t raise farmers for more than 67 days without any armed conflict because the land needs to be farmed but I make it professionals instead of relying in the strength of farmers turned soldier or nobles fealty.
Mostly the laws are enforced because if the farmland isn’t managed then surely the nobles who owned the land will suffer soil degradation and loss of profit.
The armies in other parts of the continents is largely mercenary, employed by Kings or wealthy lords who used military means and diplomacy to advance their narrow dynastic interest, and who evoked few sentiments of nationalism among their subject.
I right now have about 35 thousand troops and I already buy some of the land in Rockstill to build a military headquarters now that the King has begun moving hi royal court back to Arouen.
Of course he needs to repair back the castle. With his money of course. He also have begun collecting taxes and confiscating the land that belong to his opposition. The Crown owe us much.
The Crown and the war expenses.
For the King we lower the interest and he promise he will pay. But for now we waive a year before they pay our money because of the cost of repairing the castle and the surrounding areas.
We did mess the castle pretty good.
I ask Kyle who I promoted into a Commander Kyle with 5000 man under his unit, so does West and Lisa to take up the position to enforce my control over Arrandy military.
And under them is their banner lord who all was given Vice-Captain title.
I fill my troop’s position of power with people I trust. After all I do not want a rebellion to happen.
West has proven his loyalty as he captured his own father and present him to the King.
Though I suspect Henry surrendered himself. He is very smart in that he excuse himself before the decisive battle.
After I persuade King Adrian to let him go, Henry and his wife were exiled in Seren under house arrest.
Any intention of rebelling and he will be executed.
He can return after 10 years. A slight discomfort rather than having his head on a spike and West can still provide for his family.
He of course, accepts the punishment.
West looked sullen but I guess he is relieved that his father was safe and alive at the end of the war.
But it’s not like I’m doing it out of my kindness of my heart but to capture the hearts of those in the North.
If they saw that one of their chief rebel were pardoned, then surely they will stopped their resistance and put themselves under the crown.
If for example Adrian executed Henry, then surely his banner lords and relatives both in Vern and in Aetherland would take that grudge and maybe King Adrian has to put up with a revolt or a rebellion.
And this time they will move stealthily, raiding and pillaging. A mobile army is harder to destroy than one concentrated army which I can crush easily with my massive army
I want the war to end, so even though he is one of the main perpetrator in the war, pardoning him would bring a swift end to the discord.
Then I heard footsteps climbing the ladder
‘My lord seeing us train again?’ Captain Eric greets me.
‘Yes’ I replied
‘How are the men?’
‘In high morale Maximus’
I nodded as looked at the men training with their weapons. As I looked at then I knew and feel it deep I my heart.
My time will be over but not before I eliminate the threats that threatened my family. Since I got back home I have begun construction project all around the Kingdom.
With the King expressed permission I have establish many trade companies all around the Port in the Kingdom and the Argan Dam is almost finished.
I also began establishing policy in the duchy .
I have debated this with my Lawkeeper in length yesterday in the House Council.
I bind the new immigrant granting them citizenships. The fact is now that we have no immediate threat from any other nations..
Seren have little military at least compared to us thanks to the immigration policy. But to be honest the real problem of Seren is not it’s military scarcity but it’s ability to wage a long war.
In Aetherland we have man supplies and after the war I established many granaries to keep grain and supplies.
Even in Acro the Dragon Keep plays that part.
I have also greeted my little sister just this morning, sleeping peacefully in the crib, hearing my mother singing.
I remembered the song.
My father and my mother ask about my injury in the war but I dismiss them by saying I am fine but the cold night always brings the pain.
I suffer silently.
Nowadays I’m known as Prince Arial, thanks to the title bestowed on me by the King. I also carried out fresh recruitment each year and the might of my duchy is begin to be envied by other nation.
Vern for example.
Arrandy is after all almost an autonomous state by itself.
My word is law here and with my father abdicating from his position I am right now is Prince of Arrandy,and Duke Arial Vermont holding the power of the law and all the land in Arrandy as my father enjoy his rest and helping my mother.
I speak with my father after I return home from the war.
I told him I would be busy with all the affairs that I need to handle.
I also create the Dragonguard, a guard dedicated to my family consisting of 100 men chosen from the best, everyone skilled and have loyalty and swear an oath to the protection of my family.
They are given houses and money.
As I contemplate all of this I could see from the distance a messenger is coming towards m with great urgency.
He sees me and kneeled.
‘My prince’ he said, ‘there is someone waiting to see you in the castle.’
I looked at him.
‘Can’t you see today is the day I inspect the army? I thought I told all of the people in the castle that when I’m doing military inspection I will not be bothered.’
‘Your father your mother and all your vassal are all there waiting for you.’
And a sweat formed in the messenger neck fearing that he has angered me.
I was a little perplexed.
Why would all of my vassals and even my parent have to greet this person?
‘Who is it?’ I asked.
He looked at me and reply.
‘The Vangua King my prince.’
**************************************************************************

CHAPTER 63: NORTHERN BADGER
ZHANG LIAO BAO
TAIGUO REGION
TAIJIAN
After the battle there is nothing noteworthy that happens so we are traveling in relative peace. No bandits, or martial artist searching for us.
It seems Lishan sect did adhere to their promise. We made a few stops here and there, camping and rest at night in some forest or caves.
After a few weeks finally we have arrived at Taiguo region and we stop at Taijian a small but lively city, where the trade of the region of Taiguo is centered, especially the trade product from the South.
Behind me is Zhengping and Zhaou Lu. I hold my horse by his reins as I glanced left and right scanning the city environment.
It is bustling indicating an active city and full of life with performers and trader selling their wares outside the city wall.
It has been a long journey from the Tiger Gorge, a very long journey, passing Yuan and now here at Taiguo.
A few days more of riding and we will reached Shanhai Pass. I hear that we need to have certain level of influence to pass the Shanhai Pass but thankfully I have the Princess as my companions.
Surely a person of her birth can get us safely through the customs.
My eyes is still glancing right and left looking at the vibrant city. I am in awe but I heard from the traders I met in my journey you have never seen a city unless you have seen Acro.
I have living my adolescent life in the capital but never have I travelled this far.
Even when I was a child the fact that I need to always stay around the Pleasure House is a fact I couldn’t forget.
A fact I begrudge
‘Senior Brother let us rest and eat’ Zhengping said from the back.
She seems wide eyed looking at the people trading. I imagine she must have a very sheltered life. Which begs the question why did she were let out.
I look at my knapsack and I only see 1 gold.
It might be enough for us to eat. Usually in the forest and caves or the forest we only hunt where I took the opportunity to train my technique.
But even when we hunt Zhao Lu always cook even the unappetizing game to look like a royal cuisine and the Princess eat it grace while I usually ate other places mostly because I would like to avoid the Princess looking at how I eat.
Zhao Lu realizes I’m looking at the knapsack and he said
‘Do not worry about the gold Liao Bao. The Chu household will pay for the Princess and you as repayment.’
‘You would do that?’
‘You are our savior.’
I smiled.
In this few couple of weeks my relationships with Zhao Lu has been getting better. Mostly because we always hunt together looking for food.
Different from my initial assumption he is not in love with the Princess. I could almost swear that he likes her but that is mostly because of his protective side.
He told me this in one of our campfire talk, that he has a sweetheart in the Chu residence.
His younger martial sister Lian Yi.
He said that she has quit the temper. But a beauty all the same. Well, when you think about it, stubborn girl is usually pretty.
But he still dodges my question why they are running away from the Lishan sect.
Then my stomach growled.
The Princess chuckled.
‘It seems even Hero Zhang is hungry.’
I smiled sheepishly.
As we looked around the city I found this one large restaurant and we decided we will replenish our belly and quench our thirst at the establishment.
We tied up our horse in front of the door and went in.
‘What will you eat Hero Zhang?’ The Princess asked me she said already bringing out her pouch of gold.
‘It is not gentlemanly to let the lady pay’ I said.
‘It is the least I could do and it would be an honour’ she said.
The inn boy’s comes to our table and ask for our order. I sighed. And then I look at the menu with assortments of beef and food, fruits and vegetable dishes.
‘I would have Taijian Beef, Zicheng pancake, and wrapped meat’ I ordered.
‘And give us some good wine.’ Zhao Lu retorted.
I nodded.
‘I would like some vegetables dish’ the Princess said as she pointed to the menu picking her dishes.
The inn boys nodded and went to the kitchen.
A few moment later our orders are being served.
Usually I would have attacked the food but since there is a lady here, I restrained myself and eat with great civility copying the noble emissaries that used to frequent the Imperial Palace.
I could see that the Princess is impressed with my civility.
But truth be told it is kind of annoying to eat like that but I have no choice.
We all enjoyed our dish when suddenly we heard a disturbance at the door of the inn.
Zhao Lu quickly holds the edge of his sword. He is always on alert. Always on the edge. I commend his vigilance but he is a bit stiff.
‘I’ll check it out.’I said to Zhao Lu
‘Stay here’ I said to the Princess and she nodded in understanding.
I fear that maybe the ruffians from Lishan Sect are here again and at the same time fearing for our mounts being let out.
I rushed to the doorway jumping from the second floor where our table is and landed on the first floor with ease.
Some of the restaurant customers look in awe. There must not be many martial artists around here.
I glance around our mounts and the horses is quietly eating its fodder while three inn boys are trying to deter a slender old man, clothed in patches of stitched rags.
On his head he wore an old leather hat with holes and he appear to be fifty and ten or sixty and ten.
His white beard are long and his face and hands are dirty. There is even some mud in his left cheek.
He held a chicken wing in his left hand and laughed like he has no care in the world revealing his out of place teeth and he has black eyes.
But for some reason I could fell something from him. It is faint but it is there.
He is also Eastian like me.
‘Hey you!’ one of the manager came screaming out from the kitchen
‘Get lost old man. We do not serve people like you.’
He stopped laughing and looked terribly hurt by the screaming.
‘Fine if you want me to leave I will leave.’ He turned his heel to go but the manager screamed again
‘Leave the chicken idiot.’
He grinned foolishly and from his knapsack he handed the chicken, a wing missing. Probably in his belly already
The manager looked at the chicken and he is furious beyond reason. The chicken is so dirty with mud and other stuff stick at it.
How can the manager sell it? His face is red with anger and even his employees look scared
The manager is so furious and launched a blow with his fist and this is where it gets bizarre.
The old man ducked but not in any normal way. I could feel that he used an internal energy to dodge that.
The feeling is there.
Which mean this man in front of me is an exponent maybe more than me. If he can hide the presence of his internal energy then surely he is an expert.
This is an opportunity.
I jump in front of the manager as he prepared to beat the old man again.
‘There is no need for violence, good sir. Please put this old man chicken on my account’ The old man look pleased.
‘Are you hungry?’ I asked
He nodded
‘Then please follow me.’ I gestured him to follow me. The old man followed me inside the restaurant and stay there looking at me fixedly.
‘Please Elder order some food’ I said
‘Elder?’ He said amused.
‘I rarely heard people call me Elder.’
‘You are older than me. I need to show some respect.’
‘Ah respect. To think I could met such man in my journey.’
‘Who is this man’ Zhao Lu said as the old man sit in the table beside us.
‘Please forgive me princess but I will drink with this man.’
‘Hero Zhang is also a charitable person it seems’ she said. I shakes my head.
“No,I’m not’
It is not so much charity but opportunity.
He is an expert and it is better to befriend people especially in the martial arts world where enemies can be made in a seconds and friends too.
I moved my chair to sit with the old man.
‘You have leave a young and handsome and a beautiful girl to sit with a dirty and unkempt old man .People would call you weird, young man’ he said.
‘No, no,’ I said
‘I have always wondered about the people that lived around in Taiguo region. My mother said my father came from Taiguo and your Taiguo accent delighted me.’
‘Is that so?’ He laughed.
‘Inn boy’ I yelled and the inn boy came .
He looked at the old man dirtiness and brutish manner the look on his face changed.
The old man feels insulted and I could feel again the internal energy that seeps around out of his body.
Like I suspected. In front of me right now is a man of great internal energy.
‘Hmph!’ he spit to the first floor.
‘You take me for a beggar and unworthy to eat here. Even if you should serve me your finest dish, who knows if it’ll be to my taste?’
‘Is that so?’ the inn boy stared at the old man.
‘Can you pay?’ he asked. And the old man get flustered
‘I will pay for him’ and the old man perked up.
‘Young and generous’ he said.
‘Please order Elder ‘I asked maintaining perfect gentleman behavior. Surely he would only order a few meat and wine but I saw a glint in the old man eyes.
‘First we will have dry fruits, four fresh fruits and fruits preserved in honey and do you have longan here?’ He asked
The inn boy is shocked.
I was shocked.
Alright this is not what I expect from an old man. But again, appearance are deceiving.
‘For the fruits bring cherries, perfumed’ he said and his saliva is already salivating, ‘and plum and ginger, tangerines perfumed with rose, preserved grapes, peaches, frosted or do you not have ice here?’
‘we d-‘ and before the inn boy even have the chance to speak he continued
‘and pear slices sprinkled with a bit of sweetened cherries.’
The inn boy is surprised by the old man culinary expertise and mastery and I am the most shocked.
The inn boy looked confused while the Princess on the opposite table also tries to hear the old man, now interested seeing the old man too have such dignified plate of taste resembling that of a noble.
The old man then approached the boy and told him in detail what he want for me while I looked at my gold.
From what he orders I doubt 1 gold would be enough.
I whisper to the Princess
‘Can you help me if I could not pay my lady?’
She giggled and looked at th old man arguing with the young boy.
‘Why not? He looks interesting’
‘Your kindness will not be forgotten’
‘Don’t say that hero Zhang. I owe you my life’ she said.
‘Is that all?’ the young boy said now looking impressed with the old man..
Half an hour later the dish is finally prepared. Zhao Lu and Zhengping have already finish their dish and is waiting for me an dthe old man for our dish.
In that half an hour,the old man told me the stories, famous stories about Taijian and the news and events around the Continents.
He tells me of how the dragons have defeated the Shield forces in Aetherland, the civil war that happen between brother finally has ended and the path to reconciliation has begun.
He also tells me of the missing case of the King of Vangua, the emergence of House Orleans as the major player in Vangua, and the mystery of the King disaaperance and the unrest that followed.
The Pretender War in Dostov is also relayed to me, and the brutal punishment that King Terris did to his opposition, Seren infighting among their Radiant Rulers, the development of Renasia armies that has begun to move attacking Cora and moving their armies to Tuca.
Surely war will happen if nothing is done.
In Zettel about the marriage of Marilyn of House Roth to King Adrian of Aetherland which has secure Aetherland position as a Kingdom.
Then there is the Church business.
The Church in Cori and in Vern, both Liberate and Orthodox has release an edict hunting Knight Lord Orval the Knight Master of the Knight Academy in Aetherland and his Left and Right Commander.
No one knew why they are hunted but the Church seems pretty intent on killing them, so much, that the two sect of the religion even set off their conflict and unanimously release the edict.
So right now Knights of Alan academy has been ravaged by the Inquisitors.
Monster of the Church, Eastian called them. Brutal and cruel.
It is clear to me that not only this old man is strong he is also quite knowledgeable if he knew all that happens in other Kingdom.
Then the inn boy came to our table s and brings out three large tables and joined with our tables.
Then one by one the dish is brought out from the kitchen.
My senses were attacked by great scent, roasted chicken with honey; beef slathered with Zhengjing wine and so many others even the vegetable one of my least favourite food look appetizing.
Whatever the old man ordered all looked appetizing.
My stomach grumbled and I could see Zhengping is looking at our dish with reverence.
‘Join us’ I said and as quickly I said that Zhengping brought her chair to sit own in our table.
Even Zhao Lu also changes tables.
Now the whole restaurant looks at our table as they saw they assortments of dishes is brought out from the table and served in our table.
‘How much would this cost’ I whispered to Zhao Lu.
‘34 gold’ he said
And I almost spurted out the wine.
‘Can you pay?’ I asked worried that he doesn’t have the money.
He said ‘don’t worry Liao Bao. We can pay.’
Then we eat and talk and laughed. Until evening came and night came as we begin a drinking game. It is at this time I try to worm out some information out from him.
‘If I may ask Elder’ I said carefully ‘what are Elder doing here?’
He looked a little red, drunk probably.
‘Hic ,hic.’
‘You see I was in the capital a month ago.’ I nodded.
‘Oh, I see.’ And I poured another cup of wine for him.
‘What are you doing in the capital, if it’s not rude to ask?
‘No, not rude at all. I was meeting a few friends, and then that Serpent,’ then he throw one of the wine bottle so the wood pillars and the wine bottle smashed.
Whoever this serpent man he has made this old man mad and angry
‘That little conniving bitch. No wonder people called her serpent, backstabbing ungrateful wench’ the old man said.
Oh, not a man. A woman. But a serpent
Serpent who is he talking about? It couldn’t be the Western Serpent could it? I was about to whisper to Zhao Lu if the Western Serpent is a she.
I was about to ask Zhao Lu then I realize he is already passed out from the wine. So does Zhengping.
Both of them are red in the face and Zhao Lu is burping as I shakes my head. So stiff but when he got drunk it seems even he would show me his most embarrassing moment.
I am fine because my Absorbing technique. The poison in my body assimilated and one of the effects that I only recently found out is that I cannot get drunk. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.
And even poison does not work in me.
Most poison doesn’t.
I was remembering this one night when I was bitten by a Sable Snake only to have a little itch and by the morning even the itch is gone.
‘Anyway,’ the old man continued his story
‘Then I heard my disciple Shu Ren Gui lost his knife’ and hearing that name I almost drop my wine cup.
‘I came here looking for the thief’ he finished
Shu Ren Gui? That Shu Ren Gui?
And suddenly I’m aware of the knife hidden under my sleeve.
Wait! If he is Shu Ren Gui teacher, he just spilled his secret unconsciously.
Meaning the person in front of me is….Xiang Shun Guai, The Northern Badger that lives in the Nanshan.
I’m dead. I’m really dead this time My hand is trembling, my heartbeat quickened and sweat are formed in my forehead.
He is powerful.
Then bright idea comes to my mind. I cupped my hand if front of the old man.
‘You see Elder I have a difficulty but I don’t know if saying this too you might be imposing’ he looked at me and said
‘Oh young man, you have feed me and shown me a good time’ he said looking amused that I speak to him so formal.
“Tell me what troubles you and if I can help you I will’ I smiled.
The bait is thrown.
Now the hook.
‘You see these two people is a person of the martial arts world’ I said as I gestured to the two drunk at the table
“But I’m not. I am not talented like they are. I have some basic but in this dangerous part of the Empire I am out of my elements. I am about to go to Aetherland to search for a job but I fear that I might get robbed in the journey. Even a few weeks ago we are nearly robbed.’
‘Hmm’ he said ‘that is serious indeed.’
‘But alas, I have no teacher to teach me. I am ashamed that I need to rely to these two people to protect me, while I become only a burden’ I said and a fake tear streamed down my eyes.
The old man patted me in the back
‘Now, now.’ He said then he looked at me.
And rubbed his chin.
‘Well..ummm…..’he sighed.
‘You see, I’m not an expert but I can teach you a few moves to help you’ I quickly rubbed my tears and said
‘REALLY!’
‘Yes, a few moves anyway.’
‘That is good enough’ and I kneeled.
‘What are you doing?’ he said.
‘I must perform kowtow to pay you homage.’
‘No, no I could not take any more disciples’ he said.
‘Too much of a hassle’ he said.
‘After all I will only be teaching you a few moves.’
‘A few moves, a hundred moves, I’m grateful and if you even teach me 1 moves then that means you are my teacher. Please accept my kowtow.’
And I kowtow to him until finally he relented
‘Fine, I will accept you as my disciple. If you pass my test tomorrow.’
I smile.
Hook, line and sinker.
‘Thank you, Teacher’
Then he lost his balance but quickly he corrected his stance. He seems drunk enough yet he still has the ability to correct his stance.
50 bottle of wine are all empty because of him and it amazes me someone that could drink that much without my unique technique can still be conscious.
‘Maybe we have to resume this tomorrow’ he said and he jumped from the second floor to the first floor and with incredible speed he is no longer in the inn.
Then I looked at my companion and one question is formed in my head.
Do I have to carry them to their room? I sighed as I took them both and began walking to their room.
******************************************************************************

CHAPTER 64: HIS STORY II
BATTLEFIELD
What happens to Arial is something no one could expect. It was shocking, unexpected and unprecedented. Maybe because h look so capable, we didn’t expect this.
No one thought he would be attacked in such a sneak attack.
I could see it from afar as he slid down his horse an fall into the muddy ground, holding and removing the spear from his chest, blood splurting out.
The sound of him falling from his horse, Firebringer almost halted the entire battle. Even though he just defeated the enemy’s lords the joy is short-lived after the attack to Arial succeeded. The troops gasped in shock.
Seeing their young lord fall reduce the morale of the troops greatly. As high as the reputation that the dragons have, so does the fall.
“Fetch him, West’ Kyle yelled from the other side of the battle.
I quickly brought him back while Kyle and the other lords held back the enemies troops. The troops open a path for us to safely transport the lord. I could hear Aero is whispering.
Pain he whispered.
I could see from afar that Lisa face is worried, a face that she surely would not have shown if it was me that is inflicted with such fate.
Using some of the knowledge I have I quickly apply some medicine to his wound. My pouch has some herbs, thanks to Agnaris training in Survival lesson.
Always brought healing herbs and powdered moonstone enchanted by Archmage. Though that one is hard to get, but my father give it to me when I was ten and two.
His blood that flowed out from the wound is pure black.
And it wouldn’t stop bleeding.
I try to channel my internal energy but it is blocked somehow. Quickly I rubbed the powdered moonstone but he screeched but at least the bleeding slowed down.
‘Hang in there, Arial’ I whispered
He is poisoned.
But what kinds of poison that have such an effect like this? I never seen a poison like this. But whatever poison it is, it seems Arial is in a terrible pain.
There is no other way of saying it. This is unhonorable conduct to attack someone sneakily like this.
That unhonourable Alderam. That coward. Hiding behind his castle walls as he returned to his hiding after finishing his deeds.
I glance at the castle wall and I did not even see his shadow as their troops cheered.
‘The dragon have fallen’ they yelled
Not only he attack his opponent in such a despicable manner but also even using poison.
Then Lisa went to our path while my troops formed encirclement around the area to deter any attackers from coming here.
In the way of her coming she slashes anyone on her way. She knows what happen. But she could not be sure. And she is coming to make sure. This I know.
Lisa came and she jumped from her horse and quickly rushed to Arial side and felt his pulse. Her face turned pale white.
I heard her whisper ‘No,No,No…don’t leave me’
‘He has no pulse’ Lisa said stricken with worried and she hugged Arial, her eyes filled with tears, her cheeks which are red because of the blood that cover her face is washed away as she cried there.
‘No, no, no’ she cried and her expression is bewildered
I separate Arial body from Lisa. Then for confirmation I felt his pulse and I feel it. It is faint but it is there. I turned my attention to Lisa who is frozen there.
‘Calm down. His pulse is erratic but he is still alive’ I said
‘Really?’ She said and her eyes finally become clear and her colour returned and hearing that Arial is alive thankfully, that calms her down. I ordered Lisa to open a path for us
‘Open a path for us to return to Headquarters.’ Lisa nodded.
‘Take care of him, West’ she said. I nodded
With a last glance she led her banner man to open a path as I jumped to my horse with Arial on my back and sprinted to safety.
******************************************************************************
ARIAL TENT
‘How is he?’ Lisa barges into the tent.
Her armour is red with blood and her eyes is red.
She had cry. I looked at Arial.She cried for him. She smiles for him. She worried about him. She…..loves him.
How lucky to be him.
Speared and terminally ill, but to gain her love. Though I doubt Arial knows. He is after all very single minded. I look at Lisa again. This is tragedy waiting to happen. Lisa can’t have him. Not now.
‘What are you looking at me for West? How is he?’ she said raising her voice .
She is worried sick for him.
He is…stable for now.
Kyle then enters.
‘Where is he?’ Then he saw Arial in the bed.
He rushed to Arial bed.
‘BROTHER!’ He yelled ‘WAKE UP. YOU ARROGANT LITTLE PRICK! I SAID I WILL RIDE BESIDE YOU, DIDN’T I! I SAID NOT TO ENGAGE.I SAID-’ And he got choked up as he try to contain his tear.
‘Brother’ Lisa said in a low tone, trying to console Kyle
The other lord also began pouring into Arial tent. There is silence as Kyle suddenly looks left and right then he looked back at the bandage
‘Who did this?’ Kyle said looking at the bandage
‘I did, Ser Kyle’ he looked at me suspiciously.
‘Did you check the wound?’
‘Not in detail. I just applies some bandage and some herbs to slow the bleeding before a healer could come.’
Kyle ripped the bandage
‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING BROTHER!’ Lisa yelled.
‘Can’t you feel it little sister. The energy in this tent. Arial is using is internal energy unconsciously. His body is oozing internal energy. Keep this up and he will die.’
He checked the wound.
Lisa comes closer as she look at her brother searching, looking intently at the wound.
‘What are you looking for brother?’
‘Something. Anything’ he said and then his eyes caught something.
‘There it is! Bring me hot water.’
Lord Paris order the troops outside to bring hot water.
The basin is then brought before him and he wash his hand and then on the tiny hole that is formed around Arial heart he scratched with his finger until something fell from the wound and Arial face which is contorted in pain before relaxes.
‘What is that?’ Lisa said as I and the other lords approached the bed and looked at the object that fell from Arial wounds.
‘A shard.’
Then what happen before us is something miraculous I never thought could happen. The wound almost like magic, started healing itself, the profuse bleeding a moment ago stopped like it was being plugged and Arial breathing becomes a lot smoother.
‘Can you do the bandages again West?’ he said sounding calmer than before.
I nodded.
‘Lisa, help him’ Kyle said and he rushed out from the tent.
And I could hear his word outside the tent speaking to the other lords that is waiting outside the tent. Lord Paris also rushed out
‘My lords’ he said ‘we need to fortify our defenses and tomorrow we need to sally an assault.’
‘What do you think about that plan lord Paris?’ He asked.
Lord Paris is the regent if somehow Arial fall in battle. It was decided before in the military meetings.
Lord Paris nodded.
‘I agree. For now the safety of our lord need to be protected.’
That night I and Lisa is in the tent helping Arial.
Lisa is trying to transfer her internal energy to Arial but it didn’t work.
‘Why do you think that is?’ I asked her.
‘His body is rejecting it or maybe the poison is. Maybe after the healer came we will be clearer on what poison that Alderam put on his spear.’ She said.
I could see her eyes are baggy and he is pale. She is exhausted and I know transferring internal energy without stopping is not easy.
‘Go rest’ I asked Lisa.
She shakes her head.
‘No it is fine.’
‘You will get sick Lisa. Let me take care of him.’
‘I SAID I’M FINE AREN’T I!’ she yelled.
Then she went out from the tent again and brought some fresh towel to wipe off Arial sweat. She traces her hand around the bandages wearing an expression only a mourning lover would wear.
Then suddenly she stopped.
And then she look at Arial with an unreadable expression and she hold her heart and her face turns sorrowful and tears streamed down her cheeks.
Her breathing becomes uneven.
‘A..ri..al’ she cried stuttering as her throat become….like she hurt her throat. True pain I mused. This is what she felt.
True pain. I hate to admit it but such pain can only…..exist if there is…….and this is where it gets hard for me…….only if there is love. Seeing Arial like this…hurts her more than she could expect. And seeing her like that…..pains me.
‘Arial! Arial! Arial. Arial! What do I do?’ she said as she cried her heart out.
‘I couldn’t lose you. I promise! She cried. I promise Helia. I promise Uncle and Aunty that I will protect you. That you will return home. That we will return home together’
I know why she is worried. Arial is……inflicted with something no one knows. Whatever the poison is, it is rare. And coupled with his injury, not many people rarely survives.
I moved to her side and hugged her.
‘Let me go’ she cried.
I gripped tighter.
‘Stop it Lisa. He is going to be fine.’
‘IS HE?’ She yelled
‘Because he doesn’t look fin. He is pale and the energy that is emanating from his body is unnatural. What if he die-‘
‘HE will not. But you can’t cry like this. I understand’ I said.
YOU DON’T!
‘It hurts doesn’t it? I know why you cry. Believe me I know. Maybe not the same way in what you are feeling now but I know. Because no matter how hard you try to change something or how bad you want to escapes from what is happening now, you can't. That frustration, that knowledge that whatever you can do, will be futile, that pain just stays in one place. In there!’ I said as I pointed at her heart
‘Then one small tear escape from those eyes that water constantly. That tears is a means of escape. It is the heaviest thing in the world. And it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change anything.
So stop. Stop it. Because I couldn’t bear seeing you like this. Because seeing you like this is breaking my heart. So please…stop.And I hate it’
‘Why do you hate it?’ she said
‘The fact you are crying for him. I hate it’ and that shut her up.
It takes me a while before she calms down herselves.
‘It will be alright.’ I looked at her and she have calmed down.
‘I’m sorry’ she said
‘It’s fine.’
‘No,it’s not.’
‘I know what you feel for him. I understand that.’
‘But even so-‘
‘It is alright.’
‘Thank you’
‘Go outside. Go to your tent and sleep. Let me take care of Arial’
‘But-‘
‘No but.’
‘Go.’ she nodded.
I looked back at Arial
He is lucky. And he doesn’t even know it
Arial is a lot of things. Formidable warrior, a smart strategist and very capable lord but he is dense. I still remember the time in the Academy together.
Many girls drop a lot of hint to him but he never got it.
Maybe because he is always outside solving quest and dedicated to his quest.How could he not have realized Lisa loves him?
Even Kyle as dense as him realized it when Lisa is crying and screaming for the enemy’s blood after Arial fall in battle.
And as the night turns to dawn a new day welcomed us.
I help in the following days changing his bandages and sip water to his mouth. The energy in the tent is weird.
Unnatural.
Sometimes it is extreme cold, sometimes it is extreme heat.
In the morning of the fourth day, I could feel Lisa is beside me.
‘Up all night?’ she asked when I open my eyes. By God, she look beautiful, illuminated by the morning sunlight.
‘Did you sleep?’ She asked again
‘A little before dawn’ I said. And then she looked at me and our eyes met and she blushed and then she said.
‘I….never thank you for what you did for Arial’
I smile
‘Now could be a good time’ I said.
She smiles a little. It is beautiful. She rarely smiles for me. How I wished her smile is mine.
‘Then…thank you Ser West. I will repay you someday.’
Lisa then approached the bed and looked at Arial again. She leaned to touch him and I stooped her.
‘You want to transfer your energy again?’ She nodded.
‘That is enough don’t you think? You, yourself said it didn’t work.’
‘Maybe…….. But maybe today is different.’
She releases herself from my grip. I just shake my head
Then Lisa tries to channel her energy and she felt it. She quickly removed her hand as she looked at Arial movement.
‘He has return.’ And her face turns to joy
I realized what she means.
‘I will call the other lords here.’ I said as I rushed outside and called and assembly to Arial tent.
The troops also heard the news and waited outside the tent to pray for Arial joining those who were already her the first day of Arial fall. We waited until slowly Arial open his eyes, still weak from what I see but he clearly knows where he is.
‘My lord you are awake’ some exclaimed. Lisa moved away from the bed and went outside to call her brother.
‘Praise the Light.’ Lord Sumersill said. Lord Summersill is summoned yesterday by Lord Paris with the news that Lord Arial is hurt in battle. He quickly rushed last night to come.
‘Lord Arial’ I said bowing while I see Lisa rushed towards his bed and hugged him tightly, tears streaming down her eyes.
I felt a little jealous
‘WHY DID YOU LET ME WORRY! I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!’ she said while looking at his chest with apprehension.
‘Did it hurt?’ she said
He smiles
‘It is fine, Lisa.’
‘YOU SCARED ME TO DEATH!’ Kyle said entering the tent. While Arial smiles like he is amused at the spectacle.
‘You smile?’ Kyle ask incredulous
‘How could I not?’ Kyle just shakes his head.
‘How is the battle?’ Arial asked
‘THE BATTLE! You almost lost your life, dear friend!’
‘The battle’ he said more forcefully and this time he turned to the other lord.
It seems Arial ignored Kyle and this only makes Kyle fumed with anger. Arial is Kyle lord but he is also friends with him, an unusual relationship to say the least.
Lisa grabbed his hand and looked at him with worried all plastered on her face. I envy that look she gives him. A look of love.
And once again, I’m amazed at the dense Arial. Even with such look, can he not see?
‘Rest, Arial! Please just rest, Arial!’ She said looking at him with her red eyes.
‘I don’t think I can’ Arial said while smiling a faint smile. She cast her glance downwards as a sign of resignation of Arial stubbornness.
‘Lord Paris give me a report’ He said and quickly Lord Paris startled quickly give him the report
‘We are still fighting my lord but for this past few days it has turned into a stalemate, our troops low on it’s morale while the enemies is still waiting reinforcement from the Verman which has been reported engaged in battle at Shanhai Pass in Vern.So right now we have the advantage of number because the castle seems like it will succumbed to our sieging in any moment but the lack of morale and fighting spirit among the troops will prove to be difficult. Praise the Light that you have woken up my lord. Surely the troops will regain back their fighting spirit.’
‘Are they outside waiting to hear whether I die or live?’
‘I….yes my lord. They were waiting. And surely their morale will soar when they hear that you are alive and well, my lord’ he said with joy in his tone
‘This evening I will do some round around the barracks. Tell the other lords. I will not forgive lack of discipline.’
‘But my lord…, this could not do. Not in your condition’ some lord pointed out
Lisa nodded then she tries to persuade Arial
‘You just woke up, literally from death. I felt your pulse when you were thrown off your house and I can’t feel your pulse. You were dead for a few second.’
‘And now I’m back to the world of the living. And, dear Lisa, I want to keep it that way. Is there no healer here?’ he gestured to Lord Paris again
‘Some were called from the nearby cities my lord and by the evening surely he will come here, after all I sent some of our best men to fetch the healer.’
He nodded.
Healer are in scarcity in the North. After we called the healer in the first day of Arial incident, we got a report that many have moved to the South so the riders were ordered to go and fetch some of them.
After Battle of Berth, many fear that the battle in Dented Shield wills involve many more loss of lives so all of them chose to migrate to the other part of the Kingdom.
He looked at his bare chest now scarred but bandage by poultice, and it seems it stopped the bleeding and helped with the healing.
‘Who did this then?’ he gestured to the herb poultice and the bandage around his heart.
‘Ser West did.’ Lisa said, her eyes glanced to me, an expression of gratitude. My face turned red and I nodded
‘Knowledgeable’ Arial compliment.
‘Survival, my lord. Knight Agnaris teach me that.’
‘Ah yes, Agnaris’ he said ‘Tomorrow I will lead the battle myself.’ he declared to everyone assembled.
‘No longer’ he said. ‘I will take that castle tomorrow.’ he said and some of the lords were whispering
‘Tell them to rest today for tomorrow they will be led to victory. Now go do your duty’ he asked
But the lord hesitated to get out of the tent.
‘Do you all doubt my words?’ he said more like a statement than a question
‘But my lord….wouldn’t it be better to rest’ some lords advice
Lisa nodded. So does Kyle and me.
‘I will rest when this war is over. But enough of your words. Go. Eat. Sing. Be merry. Because tomorrow some people will not be here anymore. Tell them, for some of them tomorrow will be their last days and tell them that they will be remembered. Tell them that. Give them comfort. Give them assurance, that they will return home. Go. Tell them. And tonight if you still do not tell them of such thing, I will tell them’
The other noble lord nodded. We all know how headstrong Arial really is.
‘Get well, my lord.’
‘Keep strong’
We all said words of encouragement.
The rest went out but Kyle and Lisa is there. Waiting to talk with him. They are not a lord, but a Knight but none of the other lord dare reprimand them because they all know their relationship with him.
I went outside the tent and return to my tent.
******************************************************************************

CHAPTER 65: SO MANY THINGS
ZHANG LIAO BAO
CHU ZHENGPING ROOM
‘LET’S GO AGAIN.LET’S GO AGAIN. BRING ME WINE. Bring me WINE!’ the princess yelled as I brought her to her room. Her cheeks is red and her eyes are unfocused
‘No princess that is enough for tonight’ I said almost chuckling. Who would have thought that demure girl would become so aggressive after getting drunk?
‘No, No. Again, again. Hic, hic. Senior Brother! Where is Senior Brother? Bring me wine’ she hiccupped.
Zhao Lu I have already entrusted him to the inn boy and ask them to bring him to his room but the Princess is not. She is drunk.
Too drunk. I fear the other inn boy might take advantage of her and truthfully the employee is even afraid to come near her.
Finally we arrived in front of her room. The moonlight shines my way as the cold wind greeted me. I use one of my coats and give it to the Princess.
She looked at me, her eyes beaming, and her cheeks still red.
‘Thank you’ she muttered blushing, under the pale moonlight.
‘You’re welcome’ I said
I open the door of her room and put her down at her bed. I should go back to my room. I began turning my heel away when she grabbed my clothes sleeve.
‘Don’t go Liao Bao.’ Her voice is desperate and there is a hint of longing.
‘Princess……’ And I look into her eyes and my eyes leered to her shoulder. Unconsciously I gulped. Her shoulder is exposed and my mind was already filled with indecent thought.
‘I should go. This is late and people will talk.’
‘Call my name. Liao Bao.’ I blushed a little. I moved again and then I felt it.
She grabbed me and I fall into her bed. It is not like I don’t have the energy to release myself from her grab. I just don’t want to.
She is beautiful and I am lustful. I could hear her breath. It is uneven and I know she could see my hungry look that betrayed my words. I am a driven man. And nothing drives me more than a woman.
‘We shouldn’t do this’ and I got up from the bed. The Princes looked at me disappointed. I begin walking to the door.
If Zhao Lu ever found out I fuck his little Princess surely it would create discord between us. Not to mention she is the Princess.
‘Stay with me tonight’ she said with a lustrous voice.
The voice comes from my back and I could hear something is being open. The sound of silk glistening around her body. And then I heard something fell to the ground.
I turned back.
She is removing her clothing. One by one like she is seducing me, her eyes which was unfocused earlier now burns with determination. And her eyes have the same glint of hunger that I have.
‘Princess!’
‘Zhengping. Call me Zhengping’ she said
‘Zhengping’ I said ‘what are you doing?’
I’m hot so I’m removing my clothing’ she said a naughty smile traces around her lips. I thought she is demure. Innocent. Who taught her this?
I pick up her clothes and she takes this opportunity to grab me and I could feel it but this time I went with it and I reverse our position.
I’m on top she is on the bottom.
She stares at my eyes and I at her. Those beautiful blue eyes. And I look at her naked body and I gulped again. She chuckled. She playfully tried to release himself from my grip but I tightened it.
‘Manly’ she said.
‘And you’re feisty for someone innocent like you. That surprise me.’ She giggled.
‘I’m full of charms’ she said giggling as she caressed my cheeks. She is awake. So she is not drunk. You little fox. She was just pretending.
I smiled “That is true”
Then she kissed me in the cheek. A sweet, cute little kiss. And I looked at her as she smiles one of the most beautiful smiles I have seen. She likes me. Maybe even more than that.
My face turned red.
It is not the first time I was kissed. Neither it was the first time I’m with someone in a bed. But never, I felt like this. This connection.
But it is so sudden and I was taken by surprise.
She giggled again.
‘Once more’ and this time she kissed me on the left cheek. This time I laughed a little. She is cute.
‘How is it? Is it good?’ she said a little worried.
‘I never kissed anybody before. Mother said kissing somebody will make me pregnant.’
I almost laughed. She knows how to seduce me but it seems she doesn’t know much about fucking.
A sheltered princess. I couldn’t blame her. But where did she learn to do this trick of ‘Pretending To Be Drunk To Capture A Man?’ I giggled myself, appreciating the irony.
‘Hmmm. I don’t know how it tastes. I didn’t have enough time to taste it. How about kissing me here?’
And I pointed to my lips.
‘Naughty’ she said. ‘Only my parents do that.’
I hugged her, and she gasped as I closed the space between us.
"This," I said. And then I kissed her.
This kiss is nothing like I experienced. It is not desperate. It is just……good, sweet as we enjoy it slowly.
It steals my breath in the greatest way and gives it back. She glances at me and her eyes shows she trust me.
I smile a triumphant smile.
‘How is it?’ I asked.
She is dazed.
‘It….felt good. Better…… than good’ and she blushed.
‘Can we do it again?’ she said innocently. Her eye is staring at my lips.
And my blood boils.
‘Of course we can’ I smile a grin. Her hand traced my clothes and slowly she removes my clothing as her hand traces my body, slowly like she is taking her time.
And we kissed that night and I fucked her that night.
It was good. Better than good.
She is innocent in that area so I lead most of the time but she is a fast learner.
We were ‘wrestling’ all night at least that is how Chu Zhengping called it when she said to me that when she heard noises from her parents’ bedroom, her parents always said they were wrestling.
I couldn’t help but laugh when she said that during our session of making love as she so innocently termed. I also learned that she learned pretending to be drunk learning from her Martial Sister who tells her stories how to seduce a man.
She said with an innocent expression ‘Why laugh?’
I couldn’t answer her.
It takes no time until she moans and begging and I was happy to oblige.
It felt different.
Not the same. But good kind of different
I hope Zhao Lu doesn’t find out.
But who could blame me?
I already try to decline but she keeps seducing me. A man as lustful as me can endure for so long before I finally fall to the temptation.
By the time we are done, she was drenched in sweat, and she is breathless.
I sleep beside her, with a smug expression. I don’t only learn performing in the pleasure house. I learn a lot of things.
And usually I would bail the next morning, but tonight, I have no intention to run away from this.
It felt good.
Not only physically. It is the connection I felt with her when we are doing it.
It might not be love in my part but it is love on her part.
And I don’t hate it.
And I might not love her like she love me, but I do like her and her innocence. And who is to say that couldn’t be something more.
I looked at the ceiling and smile.
Who would have thought I would bed a Princess?
This is the life and I couldn’t help but forget my other problems.
I look at her and kissed her forehead.
She glance upward and she kiss me back.
‘Sleep, Ping Mei.’ She blushed.
‘You do not call me Princess anymore?’
‘How could I?’
Now that I have feel your sincerity towards me.
She gave me one of her most captivating smiles.
The bright and cold night shines the moon streamed in from the nearby window and I could see how sweet her face look and I couldn’t have enough.
It is beautiful, captivating like her smile.
Without realizing, I embraced her and hug her and she too did the same.
‘Will you stay?’ She said her eyes expecting.
‘Hmm’ I nodded.
And, tired after our session I closed my eyes and went to sleep with her naked hugging me as we sleep in the same bed.
And I felt happy for the first time in a long time, my trouble washed away in those moments of embrace.
****************************************************************************
MORNING
At the morning I quickly get up and get out of her room else I will be captured in quite the delicate position by Zhao Lu.
I returned to the inn and waited for the old man to come.
‘Young master Zhang, here again’ the inn boy greeted me.
‘Your order’ he said telling me the menu
‘Just give me some fruit dishes’ I said ‘and water.’
He nodded and went away to prepare my dishes. Some of the other employee greeted me. We did make quite a mess last night.
I waited for a long time almost reaching afternoon but the old man did not show himself. It couldn’t be he forgot right?
No….or could it be? No….that couldn’t possibly? Right?
He is pretty drunk yesterday.
I shake my head.
No…no, that couldn’t be when suddenly something swished by and a small stick stuck onto the wooden pillar beside me.
Incredible internal energy I mused
I looked at the stick and realized something is scrolled along the wooden stick. I take the wooden stick and examine it. There is a scroll rolled along the wooden stick.
I open it and I read it.
Meet me in Tailian Forest. And there is a painting of a badger in the bottom.
‘Inn boy’ I yelled.
‘Put this under the young man that came here yesterday.’
‘Young master Zhao?’
‘Yes.’
Then I rushed outside. I took my mount and went to the forest. It took me a while and asking direction from the local people to finally know where the forest is.
‘Sir’ I yelled in the middle of the forest
Then with a swooshing sound I felt someone sneak up behind me, the force of the internal energy was suffocating.
Every fibre in my body wanted to execute the Treading in the Wind technique and run away but if I do that my statement that I am a novice in martial arts will surely be revealed and from what I know about the Northern Badger is that he hates liars and duplicitous person, which perfectly describes me.
So I let him do what he wanted.
‘Zhang’ he said and I turned back feigning a look of ignorance.
I cupped my hand and offer him my respect.
Then suddenly without any warning his palm attacked me which is something I did not expect and his hand rested on my shoulder.
It is swift, and powerful and I almost didn’t have time to response and at the very moment when my internal energy about to push his energy, he yanked his hand out of my shoulder.
Then he laughed
‘You lied to me young man.’
‘What?’ I said
‘I was just testing your level of internal energy. You said you had no teacher? That is impossible with the kind of energy you have. It is not profound but for your age it is quite remarkable and I sensed a malevolent energy that is quite different from the way of the righteous sect internal energy cultivation technique.’
Oh,fuck
I quickly kneeled.
‘Forgive me, O Northern Badger.’
He looked amused.
‘So you know me. Another’ lie he said
‘But I did not lie.’
‘You dare!’
He said raising his voice.
‘I did not lie.’
He squatted and he picked up a few stick and looked at me.
‘Explain to me young boy or this stick will bore a hole through your head.’
Think Liao Bao.
My mouth always save me more than my technique. Think. And finally a solution came to my head.
‘I never did lie to you. First I said to you I have no teacher. That is true.’
‘Then how did you have a level of this internal energy?’
‘I found a manual detailing of an Absorption technique.’
‘What it is called?’ he said showing a little bit of interest.
I couldn’t straight out say that it is Devil Absorbing Technique. Even the name is indicating it is a dark technique, not one that a righteous sect would practice so I said.
And if the prerequisite of learning it is combining the vilest venom and consume it is not indicative enough that it is not a righteous sect technique then the name surely would not help.
‘Absorption Sucking Technique.’
‘So it exist’ he said as he looked at me.
‘And you learned it?’
‘Yes’
‘Why?’
‘Because once I was captured by a man and it makes me think that learning martial art may not be so bad.’
‘Hmm’ he said.
‘And I said I will address the fact that I said I’m burdening them. It is true if we compare my technique with Hero Zhao and Princess Chu Zhengping in terms of technique I only have two’ I said.
I will not lie about the amount of technique I learned. After all an exponent like him can quickly find out.
‘But this two techniques will not lose out if I fight against them. But I am a burden to them. They could not do what they want freely while I need to be with them until I reach the border. After all how could I gain access past the Shanhai Pass if not backed by these people?’
‘Glib talker’ he said.
‘Do you hate glib talker?’ I said realizing that it is a bad excuse.
Then he laughed.
‘No I like glib talker.’ I release a relieved sigh
‘HAHAHHA. So when did you know I’m the Northern Badger?’
‘When you mentioned your disciple
‘So, when I was in front of the inn you didn’t know?’
‘No’ I shake my head.
‘How could I know the beggar in front of the inn, an old man is the famous Four Immortals.’
‘Hah, so that is how it is’
And he got up and with a swish the stick flies to the nearby bamboo tress and the trees exploded.
I gulped.
If that flies to my head I don’t even want to imagine what will happen.
‘So how did you know I’m the Northern Badger when I mention my disciple?’
‘You said his knife is stolen right?’
‘Yes.’
‘I am the thief’
‘What!’
Then he looked at me again hard.
‘You stole it! You had a lot of nerve to admit that young boy.’
‘I do not want to lie to you. I have already felt guilty enough.’
Not. But I know his type. If he found out later and he will, if he just checked my sleeve, then I would be dead.A person like him value honesty. So that is what I will give him.
Then he laughed.
‘So it is you the brat.’ I smile
‘Yes I’m the brat.’
‘How did you steal it?’
‘Just I came to his bed at night.’
‘Why do you steal it?’
‘He hit my mother, after sleeping with her.’ I said balling my fist remembering what happen that day.
‘Tell me Elder Xiang should I not at least exact revenge?’
‘Sleeping with her?’
‘Yes, my mother is a prostitute.’
‘Oh. Good! A great man does not care about his background’ he said.
‘But Shu Ren Gui, should not do that.’ He gripped his fist and said.
‘I need to reprimand him’ he whispered. Then he looked back at me.
‘So why did you not fight him like a martial artist asking him for a duel instead stealing his knife?’
‘At that time, I did not yet learn this Absorption technique and surely if I fight him I would die. So I did what I can. And stole his knife.
Since then he has been chasing me. And he boasted in the pleasure house that he is the Northern Beggar disciple. So when you said he is your disciple I know who you are.’
‘Is that so?’
‘Hmmm then you did nothing wrong. But then why would you want to learn from me?’
‘Knowing that you are one of the Four Immortals, I could not help but be honoured, and if I could even learned one moves from you, to be taught personally by you is a great fortune and a cause for celebration’ I said still kneeling.
And then I reached my sleeve and grabbed the knife and present it to him bowing my head.
‘This is your disciple knife which I stole. I hope this offering will mend any bad blood between me and you disciple, Elder Xiang.’
‘So is this true what you are saying?’
‘Yes’ I nodded without looking upwards.
‘If this is true then my disciple has committed something I have repeatedly told that he should not do.’
‘Keep the knife’
‘Elder Xiang?’
‘Keep the knife I said. My disciple has brought my name disgrace.’
‘Thank you, Elder Xiang.I will regard this a s a gift from you.’ I said still kneeling.
‘Enough’ he said. ‘Get up.You have done nothing wrong child.’
I get up
‘Thank you for your generosity Elder Xiang’ and I start walking away
‘Where are you going?’
‘I will return to the inn. It seems that I cannot make you my teacher.’ I walked away again
Call me, you old man I said yelling in my heart.
‘Wait’
That’s it!
‘Do you want the martial art world to say that I bullied a junior? Do you want me to become a bad man?’ I turned around.
‘Of course not Elder.’
‘Hmmmmm…kneel down.’
I did as he asked.
‘Promise me without my permission, you will not transmit my techniques to anyone else, not your relatives nor to your descendant.’
‘Elder?’ I said feigning ignorance
‘I”M MAKING YOU MY DISCIPLE LIAO BAO. The disciple sin is the teacher sin. This is the only way I can repay my disciple crude behavior.’
‘You have a good heart and an honest kid. That is good. I like that in a person. And you also help me before without expecting compensation.
But I could not be here for a long time. I need to go to Qin and meet my friend Chen Yanghua. So I will teach you this one technique. This technique is called Mad Tiger Fist. This is a stokre called The Mad Tiger Shows Its Claws.’
At that he bent his knee, pivoted and straightened his arm, made a circular motion with his upright and while concentrating his internal energy to his fist he pushed outward with his other hand.
His fist emitted a swooshing sound that hurt my ears.
If not for my internal energy I might even get taken with the force of his release fist and from a distance I could see the bulk of bamboo trees in front of bend and shattered their roots were taken away with force.
I could not hide my amazement.
‘That tree is stationary’ he said.
‘If it were a martial artist he would try to avoid the fist. You must strike precisely and if you do, the enemy will surely fall.’
Seeing this it is true what the rumor said about Northern Badger technique.
Strong and hard.
Unlike the Southern Healer technique that stresses softness in their moves, the Northern Badger technique is crude and strong, unmovable like a mountain.
This kind of technique must have great control of its power and the concentration must be high.
Mad Tiger Fist.
This must be one of his famous fist techniques.
‘Try it’ he said I nodded and quickly I took up the same positions as him and target another bulk of bamboo tree and after concentrating the point of my fist, I release my fist.
Thanks to the books in the Secret passage I understand the basic of internal energy concentration and using my fist as the focal point of the energy worked.
The bamboo tree broke and one of them even shattered but not the root.
He laughed.
‘A fast learner.’
‘But I did not destroy all of them.’
‘Yes but you did better than most would do. Your concentration is good. If you do it in one blow then you are a prodigy’ he said ‘and prodigy tires me. They are arrogant’ he said bitterness can be felt from his word.
He must have his experience.
‘This few days that I have, come here every morning. For these three days I will teach you until the 10 strokes of the Mad Tiger Fist.’
‘How much stoke the Mad Tiger Fist have?’ I said.
‘16 strokes but 10 strokes is good enough. I don’t have time to teach you all 16 strokes.’
I nodded
‘I understand teacher’
He rubbed his head.
‘Another disciple.’ He complained
‘If you meet your Senior martial brother next time, he surely would kneel and apologizes to you Liao Bao.I promise you that.’
‘There is no need teacher.’
‘No, he did something wrong and he must pay.’
Three days? I could at least spare three days right? My promise with the Princess is important but if I have the opportunity to learn this from the Four Immortals then surely it would help me in the long term.
After all I might even have to go to the Dark Lands.
Who knows what enemies I would encounter there. The Dark Lands have their own martial art which is very different from the martial arts of the Human Continent.
‘Then I will meet you tomorrow teacher’ and as soon I said that he disappeared.
I smile and whistle as I return home to the inn.

CHAPTER 66: SEPARATION AT ACRO
After a few weeks finally we have arrived in Aetherland.
We are here in the North of Aetherland. Our destination is Acro. The continent greatest city some people called it. They speak the common tongue.
Their architecture is top notch aided by the immigrants who brought with them their expertise. Its growth from a small village in a backwater region of the Kingdom owes it all to one family who have spent their money and effort on creating the city to what it was today.
‘Finally we arrived’ Zhengping remarked on the back. I looked and flashed her a grin.
‘Yes it seems so.’
She smiles.
These days when we stop at an inn, I usually sneak up to her room at night of course without Zhao Lu ever knowing.
Well, if he ever knew I don’t think I can keep my head. I know how steadfast Zhaou Lu about keeping his princess safe.
Thanks to my lightness technique I did not get caught. There is this one time when I forgot to leave in the morning and Zhao Lu suspicious barge in.
Thankfully I jumped to the ceiling and I had for about few moments stuck on the ceiling as he searched the Princess room.
Zhengping laughed at me that night when I came back to her room.
But I couldn’t keep up this for long. Our destination is reached. From now on, our path diverged. I gripped my knapsack tighter.
I intend to meet the young lord of Acro and relay him the content of this letter.
‘Liao Bao’ Zhao Lu called me
‘Yes, Zhao Lu what?’
‘I guess we will separate in Acro later.’ He said telling me first. Which means like I suspected he has other objectives for going to Acro.
I nodded.
Even though I still don’t know what reason they come here from Chu to Aetherland I know they want to go to Acro for their business.
But I think it has to do with someone called Qi An Long. Whoever that is. I overheard Zhaou Lu talking with it the Princess.
So, we will stay together until Acro. Like we agree.
‘Then let us move now.’ I smile a bitter smile and gestured the horse to moves. I stroke it’s head while looking ahead as w are nearing our destination.
I look at the hill in front of us and I couldn’t help but feel excited now that I’m so close to finishing my mission.
******************************************************************************
IN FRONT OF THE CITY
‘The city is big’ Zhao Lu said as we look at the bastion in front of us.
‘Yes, I agree’ I nodded.
‘Me three’ the Princess said as three of us looked at the large cities in front of us with building higher than three storeys filled the streets and large houses and large store.
People all over ,some were pale faces like Eastian ,some black who must came from the Land of Many Sands, and all kinds of races, from Ethrusk to Loth and Franks all over the city, trading and intermingle with each other.
Scholars fill the inn, talking about complicated stuff, reciting poems and discussing about the general affairs. Culture, knowledge and all what we come to expect from civilization is here in this city.
Nobles and common folk intermingle with each other. It was a different culture than we have in Vern.
If nobles walk the street the common folk must give way but here, they treat themselves almost equally as long as they maintain respect with each other to their corresponding position they have in their society.
Zhengping is wide eyed. Then she saw this one store. I know she is interested in it, because she asked for gold from Zhao Lu. She looked at me.
‘What?’ I said.
She grabbed my arms as she pulled me to this accessory store. She began viewing the assortments of jewellery in the store.
‘Liao Bao look at this’ she take one earring and show it to me. It is green and carved in very intricate design
‘What do you think?’
‘What do I think about what?’
‘This on me’ And she twirled around like she is buying a dress.
‘It would look beautiful on you.’ I said as I looked around at the accessory store.
All the stuff in it is foreign and beautiful.
Outside the store, trade items from all over can be seen. There is some irons from foreign lands, spices from Ariundus, whales meat from Vorthy and beautiful intricate silk from Asteros.
Their standards of life seem to be different from the other region of the Kingdom.
I did stop in other region of the Kingdom and I have never seen a more prosperous city than this.
Maybe after I’m done sending this letter to the Demon Lord working here in this city wouldn’t be so bad.
‘Zhengping’ Zhao Lu called the Princess.
Here we do not use the term Princess. That would attract too much unwanted attention and we don’t want that.
Then Zhao Lu cupped his hand towards me.
‘Hero Zhang’ he said ‘this is where we part’
‘What!’ Zhengping said.
‘Couldn’t he stay with us?’ She pleads.
I cupped my hands back.
I look at Zhengping and I gestured to her not to insist.
We know this will happens. They have their objective I have mine. Zhengping did persuade me to follow her but I have my duty.
I may not look much and there are certain laws I would bend to further my own interest but once I promised, I would try my best to fulfil the promise.
I like to lie, and I like to talk and boast, I like to sneak around and I like woman very much. I never see myself tied down with only one woman.
I have no honourable qualities in me but these two. I do not like breaking promises and I hate it when a girl cries. And my promise towards the Princess is one that I determine to fulfil. And I have chosen.
‘So it seems’ I said.
Then we hugged each other.
‘Zhao Lu, I hope your endeavour will go well.’ I said.
‘I hope the same for you.’ Zhao Lu said as he broke the hug and an expression of gratitude can be seen.. Zhengping is looking at me with a sorrowful expression.
‘Senior Brother, can you go wait me at the inn?’
‘Why?’ Zhao Lu asked puzzled.
‘I need to talk in private with Liao Bao’ Zhao Lu nodded.
He went first. Zhengping and me moved our conversation under this one hill under a large tree that covers us from the sun heat.
‘So you’re leaving’ she said looking at me as she is doing her best trying to hold back her tears. And she is doing a good job at it.
‘For a while’ I said.
We understand that a long time ago. We never make any promises to each other. And we know this is our farewell for now.
One day we will meet again. And maybe then, I could promise her something.
Something more.
‘I wish…..desperately I could stay. If you were mine, truly mine… I couldn’t leave you. But-‘ I said it to her. Because it is true. Because I do wish to stay. But she is not mine. She never is.
‘But you’re not mine. Not yet. And we both have our responsibilities. I don’t know what you and Zhao Lu is planning or what you are doing here in a land so far away from Chu but I know it is something important.’
‘If you’ll never leave me, I’ll never leave you’ she said
‘We both know that isn’t true. Whatever it is you are doing here, it is something important to your house. You couldn’t abandon it as much as I couldn’t abandon my quest. One day, maybe. One day. But for now….we are in different places.’
I come closer to her and caressed her cheeks and finally her tears flowed down.
‘Don’t cry. Didn’t I say once before I hate seeing girl cry? Leave your fears, Ping Mei, cast aside your tears.’
‘How could you bear it? How could you bear this?’
‘I can bear it now. But I know I’ll never forget you if that is what you are asking.
There is no doubt I will never forget your fragrance, that may come to me, out of the blue, on a crowded road in a lazy afternoon, or our memories together in the lonely night and the pain that your absence will bring me and the smiles that accompanied it.
And when that happens, I shed a tear for you absence and your lost smiles. But I’m confident that destiny will not be so cruel to us. We will meet again.’
And as I said that I recite a poem.
“I am like you,
Destined to play my part in this world
And leave,
In the nature of my departure at least,
Some kind of sweet message left behind
In the fathomless pattern I make.”
Then I reached up and took a curl of her hair between my fingers as she blushed.
I was close enough I could feel the warmth of her body, smell her perfume, the smell that I smell countless of time during our lovemaking, and the feel of her skin and her silky hair flowing gracefully around my fingers. I look at her eyes as I closed our lips together.
I kissed her slowly.
A sweet kiss.
A kiss of farewell.
‘Not enough’ I said letting her hair slip through my finger.
This is not enough.
She nodded. She looks at me.
‘Close your eyes and let me kiss you, Liao Bao. Today, I’ll kiss you. Tomorrow I'll miss you.’
And she kissed me, not a desperate one but one that is full of promise. And as she broke the kiss she whispered in my ears.
I closed my eyes and she knows what I meant. I never like seeing someone leaving me. I told her this once.
So, I always close my eyes before someone is leaving as I tell myself that they are lost, and not that they are leaving me.
"And by the way, Liao Bao, I believe that I was a little bit in love with you.” And I could hear her voice, so smooth that I….wanted to open my eyes.
And she waited and she knows that I have already decided. And still I closed my eyes as I hear her footsteps went away and when I open it she is lost.
One day, I promised. One day I’ll meet her again. And when that day comes, I’m never letting her go.
I look at the crowd and after a while and then I turn my gaze away and began walking away.
******************************************************************************
After that I went to the city
‘Come , come’ I heard one man is asking people to follow him.
Is there something happening?
There is a ruckus in the middle of the street. A young man of dignified birth is standing on a rooftop with this another man who has scars in his left eye and has a pouch on his hand.
I know that the other young man must be a noble or someone along that rank because his clothes an only be afforded by the nobility.
‘What happen here?’ I said to one of the spectators.
Then a talkative young man stepped in and shakes my hand.
‘You see that?’ He pointed to the roof. ‘That young man wearing white cloth has his gold grabbed by that man that has scars in his eyes.’ He said enthusiastically
‘The Scarred Man thought he could escape but the young man flew as he chases him around. I have been following them since they jump out from my inn. Now they will fight.’
I concentrate my energy to my ears to hear what they are talking about on top of the roof.
‘Give me back my pouch and I will let you go!’ The young man said, his tone is stern, ot all all fearing the Scarred man.
‘Dream on kid.’
‘Then don’t blame me.’
Then they began battling in the top of the roof.
The young man has no weapon but the scarred man has a spear. But the young man has a clear face and he doesn’t seem to be unnerved by this disadvantages.
Could it be he is an expert?
If he is not then surely he would die.
Then the Scarred Man and the tassel on his spear hook spins creating something that looks like a spiral attack movement.
The young man seems a bit surprised and praised.
‘Excellent, Snake Slithering from the Ground.’
He uses his body to move along with the spear and dodged to the right. His right palm spun around and came up to meet the spearhead in an attempt to grab it.
‘Lion Bite!’ he yelled and as quickly he grab it the Scarred Man realize he made a mistake and quickly feign his attack and at the last minute manage to keep his spear.
‘Songwu Sect?’ the young man said. ‘Long way from home.’ He snickered.
‘It seems I did not yet master this technique.’ As he looked at his hand and at the spear. The Scarred Man is angry to be so ignored as the young man look amused at the scarred man.
The Scarred man is two times the size of the young man but the young man seems to be perfectly relaxed.
He must have many experiences in battle to act so nonchalantly. Then the scarred man charged, his moves is swift and agile, changing and faking as they were an illusion.
But the young man body followed the spear around, easily dodging forward and back making him almost impossible to hit.
Then suddenly from nowhere another man a little bit older than the Scarred Man jumped into the fray.
‘What are you doing Zhiwu! You should have defeated him fast.’
‘So a two man operation’ the young man said realizing finally that the two man is accomplices. The older man has a halberd in his hand.
Still the young man looked fearless.
‘This isn’t fair!’ some shouted.
‘Let’s go’ as they try to flew from the scene.
I rarely help man but this is so unfair so using my Treading in the Wind technique I flew to the ledge of the roof and trip the old man.
He was shocked but I flew so fast and my moves were so agile that he couldn’t dodge it as his face kissed the rooftop tile.
‘Stealing money and going away, that is unhonorable especially for a martial artist.’
‘Who are you!’ the scarred man yelled mostly because of the shock seeing me suddenly on the roof.
‘Just a passer-by that wish to help.’
Then I cupped my hand to the young man
‘I hope you do not mind. My name is Zhang Liao Bao.’ I said introducing myself.
He looked at me amused.
‘People of the martial art world?’ I nodded. He cupped his hand towards me. ‘I appreciate your help, Mr Zhang. I’m Helia” he said
Then as both of those men get up we have surrounded their means of escape. They then looked at each other and decided to charge towards us.
I smile at the young man and he smiles at me.
And then we both charge from opposite direction.
******************************************************************************

CHAPTER 67: MEMORIES AFTER MEMORIES
HELIA ALTHEA
SEAWORTH
I look around the courtyard and the huge trees in its centre. The green leaves greeted me and it blows following the course of the wind. Seeing it always makes me feel calm.
The blowing wind caressed my cheeks and I think of him again. It has been so long since I see him and my heart longs for him.
I have received a letter from Lisa telling me Arial has begun his journey home back to Acro. Kyle also sends a letter which detailed the event of Arial accident.
In it he explained that he didn’t tell me of what happens for fearing that I might come to the battlefield so the incident is buried.
Just you wait ,Kyle.
Kyle is a good friend of Arial and me.
He always cares for me and he has saved me almost as much as Arial saved me. Though I also save him as much on occasion.
Arial on the other hand need no saving from any killers or criminals we encountered over the years but I suspect he need someone to save him from himself. That burden on his shoulders.
He needs help from someone. The word is Arial has won, and the other noble lords that are not killed has surrendered, some flee to other country.
My betrothed has win the war and he is returning with all it’s glory. And also being called Prince now, a title bestowed upon him by the King.
I smile a little.
So if I married him later I would be called a Princess.
Me? A princess?
If it was left to me I would have ride my horse and ride to Acro to meet him and congratulate him but there is matter here to be solved in Seaworth.
My father is having the Chills so I have to help for a while.
These past few months I have posted sentry guard all along the board of Vangua fearing any intervention from Vangua force.
Thankfully there is none and so I maintain the peace and order in this region.
This is quite easy to do.
I just need to settle some dispute between noble lords and the common folks.
My father is also recuperating well. HE has been resting for the past months on his chamber while I help him with the state affairs.
I might have learned fighting in the academy but I’m still a lord’s daughter
‘My lady’ the voice startled me.
‘Nurse Carlia’ I said. The woman is thirty and four , her red hair was curled up in a bun. Nurse Carlia has watched over me when I was a child with my mother.
‘My lady, do not stand around the courtyard in this weather. You might catch a cold.’ She put a blanket on my shoulder. Her touch is warm.
I smile a little.
‘Do not worry. I can handle the cold. How is my Father?’
‘My lord, has got off bed. He looks better’
‘Is he? Where is he now?’
‘At the beach my lady. It might please the lord if you accompanied him’
‘Thank you for your concern Carlia but maybe my father need some time alone.”
I realize she is shivering ‘Please go inside. I would stay here for a moment.’ She nodded.
“Thank you my lady. But if you’re cold my lady, please warm yourself in the castle”
“I think I’ll be fine”
I look back at the huge tree and I remembered a moment I have with Arial.
It was on one of our quest.
We were running from this serial killer that only kill married woman and Kyle messed up so we have to run.
Arial on his effort in saving Kyle get thrown off a shallow cliff.
I giggle d a little.
I still remembered his face when he sees me in the bottom, trying to hide in this large hole on a large tree.
He almost laughed.
And he rarely laughs.
And then like the situation wasn’t weird enough instead of fighting the serial killer, which I think he can handle, he jump to that hole with me as he enjoyed making me uncomfortable.
He apologize afterwards of course for making me uncomfortable, the gentleman he is. HE said he couldn’t resist.
Kyle always said that Arial doesn’t like pranking but I think he likes pranking; he just doesn’t do it often.
But there is one wrong thing he presumes at that time.
He believes me to be uncomfortable. He was wrong. HE was utterly wrong. It felt good.
Maybe that is when I first realize him as a man.
The way his muscle feels, and the feeling when I heard his voice, how assured I feel, even the way he brood.
The way my heart pounded almost like it was about to explode, or the way I’m with him should have hinted me on what I feel for him. I smile again.
Remembering another memory.
And there is a lot. After all we did many things together as friends and as classmates. We share our frustration and grief, regrets and longing, laughs and tears.
But this memory I’m thinking about is my memory with Arial. One that stands out in my memory.
It was the first kiss between us. Though at that time I don’t think both of us know what we are feeling for one another.
It was at this one lake.
On a lake somewhere after we finished a quest, Kyle and Lisa playing water in the lake, shooting water bomb to each other, and Arial exhausted rested his head on my lap and I give him a kiss.
At that time it was…unconsciously done. I don’t even know why I did it. And he stared at me in amazement and I stare at his blue eyes and felt something tingle.
I should have known back then.
He should have known back then.
‘My lady?’ The voice brings me back.
‘Yes?’ The messenger kneeled before me.
‘Your father requested your presence at the beach cottage.’
‘Alright. I will come a little bit later.’
The messenger left.
I guess father must have been recuperating really well, now that he can even walk to the Beach cottage.
I quickly went to my room to change to more appropriate dress.
******************************************************************************
THE BEACH
The sound of the waves soothed me.
Like it always does.
Mother always bring me here during the summer.
Of course seeing that our castles are near the sea I see it every day from the windows but going together with mother it felt different. It felt good.
She died when I was little but is till remember bits and pieces.
I removed my footwear and felt the sand on my feet, and hear the lapping of the waves against the shorelines, the blue water so clear and pristine and feel the vastness of the sea.
The evening sun will set not long from now.
And this beach strangely reminds me of my first true kiss with Arial on the setting sun in Seren.
I still remember that kiss. That one kiss that makes me sure that I make the right choice. That one kiss that makes me sure he is the one.
The kiss was so soft that it was like a memory of a kiss, so careful on my lips, so prudent, almost like he fears he will hurt me. He held me like he is holding something so fragile, that he may broke me.
There is fear in his eyes.
Fear for what I feel for him and fearful of what he felt for me.
My mouth parted and stilled, it was quiet, a whisper. Then his coarse hand, tempered by all his training over the years, touched my neck, thumb pressed into the skin next to my jaw.
It was a touch that said “I want this” and I leaned into him. He slowly open his eyes and I could see his eyes. And it says everything.
He might not say it enough, but he meant it when he said he loves me. And that is all that matters.
And that night we went to the beach together, as the moonlight paved our way as we talk and talk until we kiss and a kiss on a beach when there is a full moon is the closest thing to Heaven. And with him, everything felt better.
There is no one else.
And I know it has been a while.
Even now I wonder where he is and how is he? I wonder if he thinks of me. Because he is always on my mind. The more I looked around he is the one I’m looking for. And sometimes I worry about him.
‘Helia?’ The voice greeted me from behind.
I didn’t even need to turn to know who called me.
‘Father. You want to see me?’
‘Yes.’ He said
‘Are you alright to get off bed father?’
‘It is fine. I’m getting better. Come here Helia’
‘Yes father’ I come and approached him
‘So?’ I thought he was going to tell me something.
‘Walk with me’
‘Walk?’
‘Yes, walk.’ It was weird of my father to walk with me.
But I listen to him and walk together. He didn’t say anything as he walked and looked at the receding water.
‘Father?’
‘Yes.’
‘Is there something you want to talk to me about?’
‘A little bit later.’
‘Is it important?’
He laughed.
‘Helia, I just want to spend some time with you. That is why I called.’
And that stumped me.
My cold father just wants to spend some time with me?. He was always occupied after mother death, almost like he is punishing himself with work.
‘I have been thinking, Helia.’ He said as he looked at the distant
‘Yes?’
‘I have waste too much time. I waste time with you and the people that love me and care for me. Do you know why I brought you here?’
‘No.’
‘Your mother always likes the setting sun when she walks with me on the beach. Every time we take you and your brother to the beach she will always wait for the setting sun and watch it as it disappeared.
She was the most extraordinary woman I have ever met. I went against my father law to marry her.
She was of common birth but I felt she was more graceful than any nobles. She embraces life. The good and the bad.
And that what attracts me to her. The vibrant life she has in her. The way she looks at you Helia, if you could only see. Oh, if you could only see.
I look you with a feeling of guilt Helia but she looked at you with love. If you could only see. Losing her…..makes me feel live is not worth living.
Grief is forever. I know this now. It will not be lessened just because you occupied yourself with other matter. It is forever, for love is forever.
It has becomes a part of me, step for step, breath by breath. But I know I can also love her at the same time as I grieve for her….I know that now.’
Then he turned to me and his eyes is full with tears as he mustered his words and said to me.
‘I will try Helia. To do what she do so effortlessly. To live with daring spirit and joy. To be a better father to you.’ And he looked at me and stared hard at me.
‘I promise this.’
I nodded as I cast my glance downward and my tears started to fall. And I felt as he hugged me and we watched the setting sun.
‘Tomorrow, go to Acro. Meet your betrothed. I know you want to meet him.’
‘I’m not that crazy about him, you know?’
He smiles.
‘Do not lie. You ARE that crazy about him. In that you take after me’ my father grins to me. I couldn’t help but laughed.
And with that I smile as my father kissed me on the forehead and I felt so happy in such a long time.
*****************************************************************************
THE NEXT MORNING
‘So everything packed my lady?’ the nurse asked me I nodded.
‘Yes I’m ready. ‘
‘Why the man clothing?’ Suddenly my father asked.
I hold my father hand and said.
‘I want to surprise Arial. I will disguise myself as a man and surprise him’
‘Pranking my lady? That is hardly appropriate beha-‘
‘It’s fine. Lisa always does this. Kyle too’
‘Kyle ? That young Knight?’
‘Yes, that one.’ The nurse just shakes her head.
‘It’s alright then.’ After that my father kissed me farewell and I journey to Acro.
******************************************************************************
THE CITY
I take a breath.
The city life. The city is the same as always with it’s marble road and beautiful building. The roads are all designed in a way that enables the people to move their cart easier.
I see many new building s being constructed all have the emblem of the dragon as a sign of respect.
I should rest myself before going to the castle.
I look at myself.
I dress perfectly like a man, I even hide my breast. Arial will never know! I couldn’t help but giggle a little.
Even from this far I could see the high castle from here. Meeting Kyle, Lisa even West would be good.
I did not fight with them on the final battle. I want to blame Arial but unlike Arial I do not have such killing intent.
I hate Alderam but I could not hate the people that fight for him. And Arial saw that. He doesn’t want me to hesitate.
I know he said that I would be doing a favour if I could see the South border but I couldn’t help but feel that I was being protected.
And I feel a little side-lined.
Lisa on the other hand, is a little bit different.
She would follow Arial even if he was going to hell. She is fiercely loyal to Arial. I always wondered what inspires her to follow him so…..fiercely.
I never understand. Then my stomach growls.
I need to eat.
I remembered a grand restaurant that me and Kyle went once called Thousands Tastes. I should eat there.
Their beef is one of the best beef I have ever tasted and they use many spices in their soup. I tied my horse outside the inn.
‘Your order’ a young man come to my table to ask me of my orders. I look at the meneu and saw that they have Zicheng beef and sweet peach.
‘I would like some- ‘when suddenly some old man accidentally rammed himself against my table.
I quickly rushed to his help
‘Are you alright Mr?’ Then I felt it. A hand around my hips.
When I turned I saw a scarred man holding my pouch and he flew out from the windows. He stole my gold.
‘SIR’ the young man yelled as I flew outside chasing him.
‘STOP THIEF!’
Whoever this man is, his size doesn’t means he is slow. He jumped to the roof and I followed. He jumped to another I follow.
Until finally after playing a game of cat and mouse he stopped at this one rooftop. He seems to be tired.
The street below is full with people seeing us. I do not want this kind of attention. So I yelled to him
‘Give me back my pouch and I will let you go!’
‘Dream on kid.’
‘Then don’t blame me.’ I see that he is bigger than me but I have taken down people bigger than him.
Following Arial on his journey always make me encounter insanely crazy, strong, serial killers, rapist, and so many more.
We began battling in the rooftop.
The areas alone is small but if he did not give me back my money than he will pay. A narrow space. Accidents can happen.
He uses a spear.
I know spear movement. Arial teach me. He also teaches me blade and sword technique which is fundamentally different.
I also once fought a man using a spear barehanded. I gather internal energy in my hand and begun to charge.
Then the Scarred Man and the tassel on his spear hook spins creating something that looks like a spiral attack movement. This technique! I have seen it before.
‘Excellent, Snake Slithering from the Ground.’ This is Songwu technique. This is a martial artist wandering the martial art world.
I use my body to move along with the spear and dodged to the right. My right palm spun around and came up to meet the spearhead in an attempt to grab it.
This is the chance to use Arial most favourite technique. After learning I rarely use it so I’m going to try it on this man
‘Lion Bite!’ I yelled as I quickly grab the spearhead and employ internal energy in my grabbing, but the Scarred Man realize he made a mistake and quickly feign his attack and at the last minute manage to keep his spear. Then we jumped away from each other taking some distance.
‘Songwu Sect? Long way from home.’ I snickered.
‘It seems I did not yet master this technique.’ I looked at my hand. Is there something wrong in my technique?
Or the amount of the internal energy. Maybe it is pure energy. When I think about it Arial technique it seems to be pure energy. Control isn’t his style.
Then the scarred man suddenly charged, his moves is swift and agile, changing and faking as they were an illusion. Snake Hissing in Dark Night stroke. Like I thought Songwu Sect. This is The Spiralling Snake technique.
But since I see it before it is hardly a threat.
My body followed the spear around, easily dodging forward and back making me almost impossible to hit. The patterns have already been memorized inside my head.
Then suddenly from nowhere another man a little bit older than the Scarred Man jumped into the fray.
‘What are you doing Zhiwu! You should have defeated him fast.’ That is the old man that rammed into my table! And at that moment I realized what is happening.
‘So a two man operation’ the older man has a halberd in his hand. So a spear and a halberd. This could get …….harder. But not impossible. I fight many more than this before.
‘This isn’t fair!’ some shouted from the bottom. ‘Let’s go’ the old man said as they try to flew from the scene.
Then suddenly I see someone from the bottom of the building flew up with such incredible speed, and landed on the ledge of the roof and trip the old man.
‘Stealing money and going away, that is unhonorable especially for a martial artist.’ He said looking disgusted at the man.
‘Who are you!’ the scarred man yelled mostly because of the shock seeing the man suddenly on the roof.
‘Just a passer-by that wish to help.’
Then he cupped his hand to me
‘I hope you do not mind. My name is Zhang Liao Bao.’ he said introducing himself.
Is this the martial artist that came from the martial arts world? I heard that even in the martial art world there are the righteous sect and the dark sect. Considering the way he carry himself he doesn’t look like a bad person.
‘People of the martial art world?’ I asked. He nodded. I cupped my hand towards him following the same gesture he did.
‘I appreciate your help, Mr Zhang. I’m Helia” I said
Then as both of those men get up we have surrounded their means of escape. They then looked at each other and decided to charge towards us.
I smile at the young man and he smiles at me.
And then we both charge from opposite direction.
******************************************************************************

CHAPTER 68: THE BATTLE AT THE ROOFTOP
ZHANG LIAO BAO
ROOFTOP
They charge.
They attacked us and I could see that this young man is very experienced in the martial art technique.
The other one with the halberd swing it at me but I slither around him making him confused. Stay in one place, you brat he yelled.
I stuck out my tongue at him
‘Don’t get angry because of your low capability’ I mocked.
The old man gets angrier and he swing around his halberd without a thought but it is not hard to avoid it especially in such messy style of attack.
I even have time to watch the young man, Helia dancing around the spear but suddenly the rhythmic patterns of the spear dance suddenly turned slow and fast baiting the young man to enter his sphere of attack.
He enter.
‘Wai-‘ I yelled as the spear arrived in front of him with a terrifying speed but the young man smack his hand together releasing a fairly powerful internal energy and clamp the spear with his bare hand.
‘Great’ the crowd cheered.
‘Phew’ I sigh in relief.
‘Pay attention’ Helia yelled at me when suddenly in front of my face the halberd is about to hack away my head.
Using the Treading on the Wind technique I duck and flew myself under the halberd swings and attack his feet and the old man tumble down.
Then I flew to the other ledge
‘Your turn’ I said to the young man.
The young man grinned
‘Fine’ he said.
The scarred man tries to release his spear from Helia grip but his spear will not budge.
Then Helia released his grip and ask him again.
‘Return my pouch and I’ll forget this happen.’
Oh very kind.
Considering his level he should make this Scarred man a punch bag. I guess he is one of those righteous kind.
He looks around and glance and seeing his accomplice in the ground writhing in pain he faltered. He throws the pouch to Helia.
I also recognize someone very dignified among the crowd.
Fuck, did the town people call the authority. The one leading them is very young wearing an armor encrusted rubies with dragon design, blaringly emblazoned on his chest.
He just looked at the young man attack and smile.
He has long white hair as his hair is being waved by the wind. The guards also just stand behind him unmoving. Every time he walked the crowd give way, all bowing at him.
Who is he?
Then suddenly a quake startled me
The Scarred Man has one more trick under his sleeve.
‘Mr Zhang jump!’ the young man cried.
It seems when the Scarred Man throw the pouch he exert his internal energy onto the rooftop and with one stomp the tiles of the roof fly around as the beam that supported the inn broke.
My alleviating technique is very unique and rare so I can escape without harm but seeing the young man I doubt he can land without injury.
This is when the dignified young man in the crowd jumped.
His long white hair flowed gracefully as he took the young man by his waist looking at the man with affectionate feeling.
That is weird of course.
If the young man is a woman I can understand but a man?
‘Arial!’ the man cried out and the young man smile and blushed?Helia seems shocjked and pleased.
The white hair man gracefully landed but what strikes me as odd is his alleviating technique. It is different from mine but I could see from his stance that it also the same in a way.
Helia! The white hair man says.
The guards behind him did not even move. So, it seems that this white hair man is quite influential.
Better side with hm.
I quickly introduced myself.
‘Hello kind sir. My name is Zhang Liao Bao. I apologize for the ruckus. But-‘
But the young man did not even pay attention to me as he strides forward and as he passed me I feel heat coming off from his body.
An intense internal energy. I unconsciously tremble.
This level…..of concentrated internal energy…it is almost the same as Northern Badger, my teacher.
I couldn’t believe it.
Someone this young having the same internal energy as my teacher? There must be a mistake.
The Scarred man and the Old man is sprawled on the street and as the white hair man walked the crowd give way to him, some bowed some kneeled.
Whoever he is….he is known around here. Maybe a lord or a lord son
‘WHO ARE YOU!’ he said to the thief and his voice is like thunder splitting the sky apart. The Scarred man trembled.
Even the old man trembled and that makes me even feel sorry for him.
They quickly get up.
‘Young man’ the old man said ‘you seem to be from some martial arts sect so I will introduce myself. My name is Song Zhitai and this is my brother Song Zhiwu. Let us go and we will let you go’ and the white hair man laughed.
‘You! Letting me go! It is me that won’t be letting you go. You almost hurt my fiancé and you want to run away? Think again!’
Fiance?
I look at Helia and I could see he is blushing.
Wait! He is marrying a man.
Then I looked again.
Truly looked.
I slapped myself in my forehead.
I was blind. How could I make such mistake! Anyone could see she is a girl in a man clothing. Her cheeks are red and his neckline is smooth.
Then I look at the white hair man.
He twisted his hand and wind swossh by making suddenly the scarred man flew towards the young man. Incredible internal energy!
‘Go Arial’ the girl cheered from the back.
Arial huh? Not that Arial right?
He grip Zhiwu shoulders and he exerts his internal energy and the crowds could hear the broken bones.
Woah!
He is not someone I want to mess with. Zhitai leapt forward seeing his brother in trouble to try to break Arial grip.
I jumped in front of them as I met his palm attack and employed the Absorbing technique and Zhiwu was shocked as I felt his energy entered me.
He quickly jumped back.
‘What was that!’ He yelled to me.
I was trying to impress the young lord.
Seeing who he is, and his capability there is no doubt that this is the young lord everyone is talking about.
‘Move aside’ he said his voice is cold and firm.
And the energy getting more malevolent by the second. Helia rushed to me.
‘Don’t interrupt him’ Helia said to me as she brought me away.
‘Who else is here?’ He said. ‘Bring them all out.’
‘We are the only ones’ Zhiwu said his broken bones preventing him from breaking free from Arial grip.
He is whimpering in pain.
‘Come if you dare’ Arial said baiting Zhitai to charge him. Zhitai charged again but Arial dodged with apparent ease.
‘Wind God technique’ Helia said almost a whisper
‘Wind God technique?’ I asked to Helia
‘Yes.’ Helia said.
‘Wind God technique is one of Arial signature move; he could evade any attack with it.’
I looked again.
It was incredible
Not only he was dodging the halberd attack but he do it while dragging the big man with apparent ease.
But I notice some similarity with my technique.
It couldn’t be.
My technique was Alexander technique devised from watching his friend technique where he improvised Levitia technique to suit his needs.
I look at his Wind God Technique.
My Treading On The Wind Technique does not require profound internal energy, technique that is devised to help Alexander who compared to his other sworn brother does not have very high internal energy at the beginning of their rebellion.
But this wind god technique?
It complements certain weakness I notice in Treading the Wind technique. Almost like Wind God technique is the purer version of Treading on The Wind technique.
The treading on the wind technique has too much softness and elegance, not enough power and fierceness.
If I need to bring someone twice my size with me while also evading my speed dropped considerably.
But, alone, my speed is unmatched even from this young lord. But neither can I attack him. This is why it was perfect use to run away but not to use when in battle.
It complements battle not help it.
But the Wind God technique is different, this I have to admit seeing it performed in front of me, understanding the fundamentals involved in using it.
It can be used to help perfect a stance and attacks.
Incredible!
Clang the sound can be heard as the resulting clash between the halberd and Arial internal energy.
The halberd shakes.
Then he grabbed the halberd as he shouted
“Helia this is how you performed Lion Bite’ he said as the halberd of Zhitai was grabbed and changed hands.
Helia smile a little, looking at Arial.
“ Arrogant” And she blushed.
Now he pointed the halberd at the old man.
The old man seeing himself utterly defeated kneeled and beg for mercy.
‘Forgive me’ he said.
‘Remember my name old man. I’m Arial the Dragon. Harm my people and you will pay. Arrest this man, take their weapons and find out where he stash their stolen loot’
The guards quickly approached the old man and cuff him in iron chains. Asteros chains. Very hard and durable.
Not many people can break it.
He then with ease throws the Zhiwu to the guard
‘This too’ he shouted
‘Yes my lord.’ They responded.
He then turned his attention to Helia.
‘Are you alright?‘
‘I’m fine.’
‘Why wear a man clothing?’ he said as he scanned Helia clothes.
‘I wanted to surprise you.’
‘Well, you surprised me’ he said looking at the destroyed roof.
‘I don’t mean that…Now it is all ruined.’
He just looks at Helia and smile then he hold her hair and unfurled her tied hair and her hair flowed gracefully behind her back.
‘You do look a little cute in those clothes.’ She giggled.
‘Heard you just got back from the war, fighting swarm of enemies forces. News even reached my ears that people bathed blood in Berth!’He nodded.
‘Just got back.’ And she laughed.
An unrestrained laughed.
‘Come on, Kyle escort the lady’ then suddenly from the crowd another man emerged and a man make his way among the crowd
He is wearing a shining armor with a raven design on his armour.
‘Kyle!’ and Helia run to the man called Kyle.
‘It has been so long.’
‘Yeah’ he nodded.
‘Where is Lisa?’
‘At the castle.’
Then Arial turned to me.
‘Thank you for helping my Helia.’ I shake my head
‘It is fine. From what I could see she could perfectly handle those two. I presume much’ His face is now relaxed.
‘Come with us to the castle. I will reward you.’
This is my chance. I held his hand and everyone gasped
‘What do you think you are doing’ Kyle said as he drew his sword. All the guard also drew their sword.
‘Settle down Arial said.’
‘It is fine. Mr Zhang let us go t-‘
‘no I need to deliver something to you.’
‘Deliver what?’
‘A letter.’ And this amused him.
‘You can give that to my attendants.’
‘No, this must be only for you.’
‘From who?’
‘Arianna’I said hoping she recognizes the name and he jolted in surprise.
He looked at me slightly alarmed and asks
‘Who are you?’
******************************************************************************

CHAPTER 69: THE MEETING BETWEEN THE PRINCE AND KING
ARIAL
THE CASTLE
GRAND HALL
A FEW HOURS EARLIER
I entered the grand hall and I could see all my vassals are there waiting for me. The atmosphere is tense as I heard murmurs.
They are whispering something. Then they recognized me and the whispering stopped. I look at them, some of them are nervous, a nervous excitement on the air of my grnad hall.
They all bowed as I proceed to enter. My mother and father is also present. My father sits among the lords and my mother beside him, holding Adrianna on her arms. Adrianna is cooing and almost cried.
My mother consoles her. I glance at my mother and my mother nodded her head, telling me not to worry.
I could see a young man waiting for me standing in the middle. Some lords tried to invite him to seat among them but he insists in sitting.
HE gestured them to return to their seats, but the lords seems uncomfortable seeing the young man standing in the middle of the grand hall.
I could felt it then.That must be the King. Edward Merovich. THE King. I took a glance on his features and I was surprised, because it is different than what I have imagined.
His face is misshapen, and he crunched but I can feel the determination that he had, his face showing no fear in a foreign court.
I imagine a man of his position must felt fear, to come here, because the history of Vangua and ours is a murky one.
Vangua have always been bitter enemies with the Dukedom but no war ever declared. Usually there is dispute over land far south of the Dukedom. To think he dares show his face here! This showed that he is fearless.
But thinking about it, anyone that is scared can be fearless. I smiles a little. After all bravery and fear go hand in hand.
I gestured one of the lords to come near me as the King look at me with amazement. The lord quickly come to me aware of me calling him. He was nervous and glancing both at me and the King.
‘Why is he standing there? Offer him to sit’
‘He has been like that since the beginning, demanding to see you. Unless he sees you, he will stand there. That is why the lords send a messenger to invite you back to the castle.’
‘Why didn’t they themselves tell me this news?’
‘They fear you would be angry so they didn’t dare’
I look at the lords and they all avert their gaze. Well, the King is also a problem. After all, who is stubborn enough to force my entire vassal to dare disturb me when I have already told them only to disturb me on matter of grave importance?
He is stubborn. Like all Kings. King of Vangua. Runaway King of Vangua. And now h has maybe brought his problem on my castle.
‘Your majesty’ I said as I take my seat at the highest chair in my grand hall. HE may be a King but the lord of this castle is me.
HE recognized me, the expression on his face was amazement and awe. He must not be expecting a very young man to be the lord of this castle.
He bowed a little. But I just nodded. In some way, I have been accustomed to live this life. Life of a lord son, at first, and now a High Lord. And I have no obligation to bow to him.
He is a King. But not my King.
‘It is an honour to meet the young lord of Acro, the young Duke and Prince.’
‘I couldn’t say the same your majesty. I am a busy man, occupied with many endeavours. I know of your disappearance which begs the question why do you come here? Certainly you did not come here for some conversation.’
‘No I’m not.’ He said
‘Where is your Knight your majesty?’ I asked realizing not even one of his lords and Knights is here.
‘I ordered them to stay outside. I wanted to speak to you as a supplicant. I should act as supplicants.’
‘Hmmm’ I looked at the young king. Whatever he wanted to discuss with me, I guess it have something to do with the rising of the Orleans family in the South.
Or maybe the rebellions that is happening in his county. Or a million other reasons. Whatever it is, I smell trouble.
‘Clear this room’ I ordered.
‘Son!’ my father exclaimed.
‘ It is alright father. Let me speak with him.’
The other lords bow their head as they head out. I squeeze the golden handle of my chair and got up from the seat. The pain suddenly strikes but I regulate my breathing and the poison recedes from the center of my energy.
A slight inconvenience for now but it will encroach me one day, if I have not found a cure by then. I know people said the poison has no cure, but since when I took people words so blindly? If there is no cure I’ll find it. If there is nowhere to be found, I’ll make it.
I walk to him when the room is empty. HE waited for me to come to him. At least, even in foreign land he still looks like a King.
‘Let us sit and talk like men.’ I said when I approached him.
‘I would appreciate that.’
We sit down on a table. I took a bottle of wine from the cabinets and bring it to the table as I poured him some wine. The wine is a high quality wine from Ranoa, a gold colour liquid, soft and rich and beautiful as I have once tasted.
It took me a 1000 gold to bought one bottle of this and I only serve it in the most auspicious occasion. Mother and father always like to raid it when they were arguing and making up.
‘My lord!’ He said shocked that I humbled myself to pour his wine and also his eyes widened when he sees the liquid.
‘Riella Wine?’ he asked in utter amazement and I just nodded. It is my custom to flaunt my family wealth to the nobles and hide it from the common people.
The lesson I learned about envy, is seared on my mind. Gain the common folks heart and they’ll worship you, gain the nobles respect and they will die for you.
‘My lord, please let me do this’ he said almost snatching the wine bottle from me.
‘This is fine’ I said. In front of my vassals I need to act tough or they will accuse me of weakness.’
He nodded. And his eyes showed understanding.
‘I understand. I too had to do as you did even to my family.’ His eyes looked away, like he remembers something painful in his past
I look at him and I could see he must have experienced a lot.
‘Tell me Your Majesty’ he shakes his head.
‘Call me Edward, Lord Arial.’
‘Then you will call me Arial’ I said.
‘Hahahaha’ he laughed
‘Fine. I will call you Arial and you will call me Edward.’
Then for a while silence. I clapped and called the attendants to serve the King some grapes and fruit dishes for he must have come far and I intend to give him the hospitality he deserves.
I serve him a second wine.
The hard but intoxicating, Roselle wine, one that I knew he would recognize since this wine is made in Cori.
But like the golden wine, this too is expensive. 1200 gold for one bottle. And scarlet like blood when I poured it over in the King cup.
The King in his haste drinks the precious wine in a single motion.
I quickly intervene the King. Surprised at this haste reaction by the King. He is impulsive sometimes I mused.
‘Allow me, Edward to show the right way in drinking wine.’
‘There is a way in drinking wine?’
‘ There is.’
‘I’ve never heard of such thing.’ Edward said puzzled.
‘Please let me show you’ I said.
‘I will take the glass in my palm and warm it up slowly. We swirl the wine in circular motion in order to smell its fragrance. ‘ I said slowly and calmly explaining it
‘But that is not enough surely?’ The King asked.
‘True. So we take it to our nostrils and smell the aromas-‘
‘And then? When do we drink it?’ the King said impatient. I smile a mischievous smile
‘Then…’ I replied ‘We put it back on the table and talk about it.’ The King looked at me. Just looked at me.
The King then laughed since the first time he set his foot here. He doubled himself and releases a cackle of laughter.
‘True!’ he exclaimed. ‘True indeed!’ as he gulped the wine and praise it’s rich texture, it’s aromatic smell and the beautiful scarlet liquid.
Then after some small tales and exchanging battle stories, finally the King revealed his intention coming here.
‘I came here to ask for your help in sheltering me and my lords.’
I ponder Edward request as the silence fills the hall, and Edward sit uncomfortably waiting for my answer.
I understand what he is asking but if I shelter him here, then this will complicate Aetherland relations with Vangua which is already strained right now.
‘Can you not do that?’
‘First I would like you to tell me what happened in Vangua that force you to run.’
‘Then hear my story’ as he tell me the story of his assassination attempts, his suspicion for the death of his father and the traitorous Orleans family that constantly trying to undermine his power.
In my opinion the Anglo-Raxons is disloyal to their lawful King and betrayed him by rebelling
‘This is….awful’ I said.
‘Please you must!’ He said, desperation in his voice, fear in his eyes, and uncertainty in his tone. He fears the Orleans. He fears them more they fear his old enemies.
I suspected Edward is a very smart politician. The fact that he turns to old enemies instead some family friend’s shows he does not trust easily.
He must know sometimes enemies can be a greater ally than a friend. He must smell an opportunity after realizing the Dukedom has been united. Old grudges may have been forgotten.
‘I must?” I said my tone is cold. I could not let him have the upper hand in this negotiation. If not he will take advantage of my hospitality in later future.
‘You could’ he said
I looked at Edward and said.
‘I could’ and I ponder whether I should
‘Fine, Edward. You will find me to be an able protector. Under my region you are protected. I give you my word. I shall be your shield if the Orleans dare chase you here. Let them contend with my armies and my walls. But only if your enemy is the Orleans. Any other enemies you have made will not be my responsibility.’
I did not make the decision lightly.
When he tells me about the Orleans I finally understand. Harald is up to his old tricks. In Dostov he tries to elevate his grandfather cause.
In Vangua he tries to make his father in law King which will make him a Prince. Ambition drives him. And there is nothing more dangerous than an old enemies rising to power.
‘Thank you Arial’
‘Do not mention it.’
He then release a relieved sigh ‘I do not think you would allow it’ the King said.
‘Why do you think that?’ I said, though to be honest I have half of mind rejecting his request.
‘Aetherland is undergoing much internal turmoil these recent years and knowing that you are central to the King of Aetherland, I have thought you will reject me. Not to mention the past that Vangua had with the Dukedom’
I nodded.
I have no intention in interfering with Vangua politics but I understand the danger posed by Harald. Never underestimate your enemies. It has become the ruin of many capable men.
‘Edward, I will send my spymaster to Vangua to collect information and see what is going on. For now you may take up residence in one of my mansions in Arrandy. Tell it to Oliver and he will guide you to the mansion.’
Then I got up and Edward too. He shakes my hand as a sign of solidarity. He is beaming at me. Then he was about to say something. But he caught himself.
‘Thank you Arial.’
‘It is only expected of me.’ He hugged me, a brotherly hug, so I hugged him back.
Then I say to him
‘As you are the rightful King of Vangua, I will try to gain the Church approval to you and force the Orleans to give back the throne to you.’
‘You would do that!’ Edward said shocked.
‘Yes, this is too bold for a noble family to even rebel against their own lords.’ Then I called back my vassal as my father socialise with the King and even my mother who show Edward my sister.
I ordered Oliver to treat the King in the best possible service we can offer him. If I put him as King in Vangua than Aetherland position is secured, no enemies at the borders.
Then Aetherland can pursue economic goals and develops internal prosperity. I will also have to send a letter to the other Kings to support Edward claim to the Vangua throne.
If Edward becomes King, surely he would not forget my kindness and the relations between Arrandy and Vangua will be generally amicable.
And he is Caelum like me.
I can even send my courtiers to his courts. For the Church I need to send Silas. That man always has a way with words and he can socialize with anyone.
Adrian will understand.
Oh, Adrian. I need to also send a letter to him about this. West can be sent to Vangua to help with the military threat, Oliver can be send for espionage purpose.
No, I shake my head.
Oliver needs to gather more information about the movement beyond the sea. They escorted Edward out and I assemble the Council again.
I quickly went to the Chambers, the Council is already waiting on me, bringing their documents prepare to answer any of my question.
‘Oliver’ I said as I begin the meeting
‘Yes my lord!’
‘Give me some information about Orleans.’ Then he called his attendants to bring him a bag. After a while he presented to me the document he has about the Orleans.
The Orleans surprisingly is like my family. Their lands made them wealthy but different from my family they did not spend it on their city or improve the livelihood of its people.
I look at their financial statement
‘Where did you get this Oliver’ I said shocked that Oliver even gets this information.
‘A little bird told me’ he grinned.
Well, I have chosen the perfect man for the job. I looked back at the documents.
The lands and wealth of the Orleans family made it outstandingly the strongest in Vangua, with about twice the income of any other family in the land.
Oliver gives statement, his analysis about Lord Jean Orleans.
He thought Orleans ‘is the most cautious in counsel and the most active in war’, with an ‘equable temperament’ and a penchant for hard work, eloquent, courteous and polite to all, treating inferiors kindly. ‘
A vice regal, second only to the King.
Now I understand why Edward is so wary of the Orleans. They acted like the land is theirs. Not only that. It seems they are also very popular with the common folk.
Maybe the rumors that Jean killed Edward father is not just a rumour. But surely the Orleans will face many oppositions if they take the throne forcefully.
So I decided.
‘Oliver’
‘Yes’ Oliver perked up.
‘I want you to spread a rumour.’
‘Yes my lord. What will it be?’ He said bringing out a parchment and ink to write my words.
‘Spread a rumour that’s says the dragons have extended their hospitality to the Crowned Lion.’ Oliver looks at me and he understands my underlying meaning.
I’m doing a preemptive attack if the Orleans decided to displace the King of Vangua. I need to act as an arbiter.
If the Orleans did not accept my terms it will be harder for me. I have no time to spare to go wage a war on foreign lands when a threat beyond the sea has begun to move.
I need to focus on the bigger picture here. The bigger picture is the Invasion. The reports of Dark Lands movement worries me.
I hope the Orleans can see reason which is why I will press them diplomatically. The Church will be an important tool in this negotiation.
The Orleans has wealth.
But so are mine. I can bribe some Vorthian pirates to raid Vangua ports, mercenary from Cori to raid their towns, even employ covert operation in Corian lands and flame their resentments to the Anglais Raxons population.
If they think I only know to go to battle using swords and blade, then they have underestimated me.
Then there is also the influence of the Church. My family relations with both Churches are very amiable. My family made many contributions to the church in form of gold and building many church around the region.
I also ask Oliver to send a letter to Lord Jean to ask him to come to Acro to settle this dispute he have with King Edward.
Certainly at first he would object but after a few months of pressure surely he would relent to come, even if it’s just to show his desire to mend relations.
Then after that I dismiss the Council. I was about to go resume my patrolling when I saw Kyle run towards me, smiling.
‘Kyle!’
‘Arial!’ he said his voice excited.
‘Want to see something interesting?’
‘Something interesting?’
‘Yes.’ He is panting.
‘Sit down first.’ He quickly sit down.
‘Water’ he yelled and the attendant brings him water and poured it into the glass.
‘You see I was patrolling around the city, like usual since I was bored last night after sleeping-‘ He must have realized my face expression. I know what he did last night. Seducing some girls. I have warned him not to that. If the Church knows about it, then I will get an earful from the Bishop and the Priest, asking why I keep such a man close to my administration.
‘Alright. Not important. But this is what I saw when I was patrolling. I was just minding my business sipping some wine in some fine establishment, on the third floor when I saw a young man so beautiful that I couldn’t believe that he is a man.’
‘Stop it Kyle. I swear if this is another story of your conques-‘
‘No that’s not it. Sheesh. Impatient. So, I look again. And you know what I discover.’
‘What?’ I said in a boring manner.
‘Helia.’
‘What!’ I said shocked.
‘Yes, Helia disguised as a man when suddenly her pouch was robbed and she chase her thief.’
‘What! Why didn’t you help her?’
‘She can handle herself. ‘
My plan on patrolling the army has to be delayed.
‘Let us venture to the city before she makes to many messes.’ I know Helia .She is kind but sometimes she makes a mess with her kind intention. I remembered when she was chasing this one rapist when they fight in a village.
3 of the 12 house were destroyed. Thankfully her family has a lot of gold so they can pay back and rebuilt the house. I rushed to my stables and whistle when the sound of hoof ran to me. Fire bringer is free to move but he always come back when I whistled.
I jumped onto his back and ride him out with Kyle behind me.
*** ******** ******************************** ********************

CHAPTER 70: THE MARCH HAS BEGUN
ARIAL
‘Escort him’ I said as I gesture to them to give Liao Bao a horse. My guards quickly hand him their horse. Zhang Liao Bao understands that I want him to follow me.
‘Follow me to the castle.’ I ordered
‘Yes, milord’ he say and he mount the horse. He seems to have noticed the tense atmosphere, and find it in his best interest to obey.
This man, Liao Bao is of Eastian descent. Which means he come from Vern. His story have some credibility.
Arianna letters. This never……happen before. Why now? That is the question I’m asking myself. Why now of all times?
What happen here? What happen here? I ask myself countless time, almost beating my head out of frustration, not understanding what is happening right now.
Doubt radiated from me. Is this true? Thousands of questions are in my head right now. IS there something I didn’t take into account? I have been taking it easy because I believe the Invasion is still two years away.
Arianna is supposed to die two years from now. That is how it supposed to be. That is history. That is the impetus and the fire that spark the war.
Letter from Arianna.
In my timeline, Arianna were assassinated just as she was pregnant which enraged Azrael and started the Great War.
But here is something ….different. Very different. And I don’t know if that is a good thing or not. Good news is: Arianna is alive and well.
Bad news, it seems the Demon King has known about it. Oliver report about the movement of the Dark Lands enters my head again.
What if Azrael believes his betrothed is murdered? Won’t he make the same decision? Wont he march to Human Continent?
I don’t know much about him but in my timeline he is quite the cruel conqueror. The feeling of Helia grabbing my hips jolts me back to my reality.
Helia rides behind me as she grabbed my waist. Firebringer galloped hard and fast, the leather rein which I just replace last week is working perfectly.
My hand holds his reins tightly. This is one beast. Every time he rides fast I will gently rub his neck and he would understand I want to slow down.
But right now I want to return to my castle, fast and discuss what this might lead. I shifted my weight to my outside hip and dug my heel into his right side, he picked up the lead in perfect rhythm, tucking his head in and bounding towards the road.
Firebringer speed is like always is terrifying. It is almost like he sensed my unease and speedily he galloped to the castle.
This must be discussed at the castle free from prying eyes. There is too much people, too many eyes and ears in the middle of the street and many know the name of Arianna the famed beauty that lives in the Dark Lands.
After a while we arrived at the castle. I dismount my horse and walk towards the castle. Liao Bao follow me.
We reached a spiral staircase. I walked swiftly, impatient and dazed with this new information, my steps is resolute.
Kyle walk behind m looking at Liao Bao with amazement. He never sees an Eastian before or speaks with them unless he patrols the city port.
Eastian mostly live in Vern and nowhere else. HElia is behind him, striking up conversation with Kyle, exchanging stories, probably.
‘Escort him to my council’ I said to Kyle. Kyle nodded. And he gestured toLiao Bao to follow him maybe to give him a change of clothes. Helia approached me
‘Helia’ I said
‘Yes, dear.’ I could not help but smile.
‘Rest yourselves and clean yourselves. I have some matters to discuss with that man’ I said pointing at Liao Bao and she must have noiced my expression. Uncertainty. She holdmy hand and said “Is everything alright?”
‘Don’t worry. Everything is fine’ But I knew it isn’t. Something, something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong.
She rushed to Liao Bao, give her thanks, shake his hands, flash a smile and excuse herself. Like always, she is charming. Liao Bao instead of following Kyle approached me, he looked annoyed with all this and a little confused.
‘Do you mind telling me what this is all about?’ Liao Bao asked me.
‘Everything will be explained later’ I said. That just increases his annoyance but he obeyed. After all he is in my castle, and here, my word is the law.
I went to the chamber first and see that my council is doing their meeting here. Oliver is there, Massey also can be seen siting dinking some wine.
I first order everyone near the room to clear themselves out and wait for Liao Bao to enter. Then after no one is there I pushed one of the books in the book shelves in the chamber and the wall near the book shelves rearranged themselves and it opens a secret chamber.
The only people that knows about it is my family, and Kyle and Lisa. I stepped down the spiral staircase made of white marble and the huge chamber greets me.
The walls are half naked rock, half polished Asteros steel lined with many Disc. My mother it seems is collecting Levitia Disk thanks to some scholars in my mother employ.
There is about 15 disk here.
And every week it increases. Every disk describes something about the First Generation. My mother wanted to donate it to the Church but I insist that we put somewhere else.
Whoever this scholar he must be very knowledgeable, to be able to find all of this. I approached one of the books helves down here, where I take one of the candles and light it up in one of the nearest large tables.
Since Liao Bao is not here yet, I took one of the many books in the book shelves.
All of it is written by me in my spare time, some written during the war, some written in time of peace, some written when I was bored, where I record the martial arts that I learned and my attempts to create my own style.
My techniques are like a textbook technique. It is perfect, many variation but if someone who have master the mastery of changes in movements in external attack they can adapt to my attacks so I’m trying to develop a new technique I created by combining the essence of martial arts I learned.
Then I heard the footsteps approaching. And he comes inside the room dazed. The air was still and the flame barely flickered. I took another candle and light it up.
It was steady and bright enough to relieve the darkness of the room. The items around the candle cast shadows. The wick blackened and the wax slowly turned to liquid, running down the side and onto the glass plate. He looks at me in the darkness of the room and approached the table.
‘Sit’ I said as I gestured him to a chair I have already prepare for his arrival. He still marvel at the room and his eyes glances to the disk and then he sits down.
‘Do you have the letter?’ I said and he became focused again.
‘Yes’ he said.
‘Tell me what happen.’
He nodded. It seems he is preparing for this, as h open hi lips to tell his story of how he came into the possession of the letter.
He then tells me of his journey and discovery of the Princess being held as a prisoner in one of the palace in the Forbidden City.
He told me how the Princess instruct him to give this letter to his fiancé and he has since never open the letter.
He handed to me.
‘Surely, milord will think something wise for this letter.’
I took the letter and I hesitated. This never happens before. Oh God, what is this? This is not the plan.
Oliver said there is some movement around the Blessed Land. Did the time of Invasion changed? Finally I decided.
I open the letter.
From: Your moon, Arianna
To: My sun, Azrael
My love, I have been imprisoned here in Emperor of Vern palace. Please send some negotiator to speak to him in releasing me.
But whatever you do, never threaten war. I will not be the cause of a war. I know the burden you held and the sentiments in your court.
I will be remembered as a virtuous wife even if I die. But never threaten war with the entire human continent.
I know there is some whispering in your ears asking you to wage war, for this is ripe opportunities.
I am not blind in the matter of politics in your court. My love, heed me. And whoever send you this letter is trusted by me. I hope this letter reaches you. I love you, my sun.
And then I put the letter down.
My hand is shaking. Flashbacks of blood and carnage, and buildings on fire, the screams of a mother losing her children, sound of sorrows and despair penetrated my mind with blaring vividness.
Vern! I slam the table with my hand and this seems to jolt Liao Bao to surprise. “My lord?” he asked. But I did not answer. I should have gained power earlier. I should have gone there right after I finished the war. I thought I had time.
Like suspected the main culprit is that Emperor.
What should I do with this?
I give back to Liao Bao his letter.
‘This is….unbelievable’ I muttered under my breath. He just nodded.
‘What should I do, my lord?’
‘Rest here. Refresh yourself’ I said. ‘Enjoy my hospitality Liao Bao and guard that letter with your life. I will think of something by next week.’
‘As you say milord’
I then exit the room and he follows behind whee I introduced him to my guard. ‘Tell my Dragonguard to keep watch for Liao Bao safety.’ I said to the commander of the Guard.
I have also informed Liao Bao that under my castle he will be protected by my Dragonguard. Then I went to my room with this new information while all the while my hand is trembling.
******************************************************************************
AZRAEL MOURNSTAR
'This is a desperate venture’ I said to Elkar on horseback. Elkar looks at me, pitifully and just nodded to my words. He has nothing to add, because he can’t.
We have begun marching to the Blessed Land.
The faction has united and has brought out their army. Thousands and thousands of it all wanted to bask in the glory. Surely, they will not be satisfy just to be the exploratory expedition. They must want to mount the wall and take back the Lost Lands, this I’m sure.
The 8 race also agree but the faeries and the Elves Council prefer to stay out the war with the Orcs acts as our infantry.
‘They threatened civil war Your Grace’ Elkar sad like the words could offer consolation to me. I sighed.
‘Try to delay them. At least that I the only thing you could do now Your Grace.’Elkar said, reciting back our plan in the palace. Elkar is right.
I will lead them to the Blessed Land and try to persuade them there. If we really decided to break out to the Human Continent surely Aetherland will rise up and taken back their title as Defender of the wall, Shield of the Human Continent and the Church will pressure every lord in the Human continent to resist us.
I urge my horse to move forward.
‘What do you think will be our threats if we really engage in a war against the Human Continent?’ I ask Elkar.
‘The Vermont’s’ he said with certainty. I nodded. I heard about them. Their superior army training and discipline.
And surely if they have eyes, when they see our marching the young lord will quickly manned up the high walls.
Even if we attack the walls, how many years will pass before we even can pass? 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? It will take many years and a loss of life so high that even if we manage to break the wall by that time we will be so exhausted we will be easily defeated.
Some of my advisors even try to bribe until they saw the discipline the Watchers of the Wall discipline.
They have gold supplied by their state, their family is proud of their work and well provided. They are also instilled with love towards their city.
And of course they love their city. His is well known among the people of the continent. How could they not? Their city is the center of civilization and knowledge.
The greatest city in Human Continent the rumours said. And the Wall? O, the great wall. The greatest obstacle if we go through with war.
The higher ground and an ample supply of arrow even if we employed dragons we might not pass the Bleeding Wall.
Using their supply of arrows how many of the fine people of my Kingdom will die under the rains of arrows and stones?
Nobody brought dragons of course. Sheesh, that flying, fire breathing, ungrateful, proud, arrogant race.
That creature cannot be tamed. I also heard about the city that is Aetherland pride that is also one of the beacon of knowledge in the Human Continent, housing enlightened minds almost rivaled the learned men of the Church.
It is said it is considered a jewel of cities. With huge population and expanding every day. And this is the reason why Aetherland itself will rise for that state.
It has street lighting, sewerage and drainage, hospitals, orphanages, public baths, aqueducts, huge water cisterns, libraries and luxury shops like the ‘House of Lights’, illuminated at night, where Asteros silks were sold.
The city was surrounded by many buildings and gave on to a great harbor and port filled with merchants and traders, there was a lighthouse within the port enclosure.
A chain of beacons linked the city to other cities, allowing messages to be sent rapidly to distant parts of the region. It warns them of threat and sometime even relayed words to announce a feast.
Inside the huge city, there was a cluster of great buildings, castles and churches, stuffed with treasures from all over the world.
There are bronze gates, fountains which flowed with wine, some say and doors of silver and polished bronze.
In the castle of the dragons where foreigners were received, stood jeweled organs and the great throne of the great lord, guarded by two massive dragons of gilded gold.
Then there is their military.
In the reign of the young lord his army has acquired every conceivable military skill. And they have tested it, even master it during their recent war which give Lord Arial the nickname, the dragon, owing to his prowess and his reputation of never being defeated in a battle.
They had mastered the art of warfare on horseback; they could fight on ground which other armies avoided, especially woodland; they were experts in night-time assaults; they knew how to improvise field fortifications quickly or to construct dykes fortified by stakes, palisades and advanced ditches; above all, they were masters of the surprise attack.
A favourite stratagem was to retreat into stone buildings, houses or churches, turn them into fortresses, and then sortie unexpectedly against an enemy who thought them cornered.
This Arial used when he was fighting against the noble lords in the early of his exploits when the war began
They were also reported by my spymaster to be masters of guerrilla fighting and warfare of a socially subversive kind, always trying to divide their enemies and turn them inwards against themselves.
Whatever more his achievement this is enough for me to think twice to mount an attack to the human lands.
Aleister is on the rear guard speaking with Gruk Kor leader of the Orcs. I could hear the Orc grunt and grunt while Aleister is laughing hearing what I could only assumes a joke. Or maybe the Orc is the joke.
I sighed. I need to try to delay this march, this is what I decided.
Then deciding that I march to the Blessed Lands the Holy City, The Land that is revered both for the Dark God and the Light.
It has labyrinth of roads filled with pilgrims from both religion and churches. It was a sea of people all ages and race, as I have once made a pilgrimage with my father when I was young but never for long.
Some, most, are sightseers from all corners of the world. It has many alleyways, and lights everywhere.
The Holy Land is a small island, not bigger than a region. Their streets were lively and bustling with pilgrims, prayers from the Dome and the churches can be heard in distance.
The streets is also crowded with stalls, covered in bright cloths and vendors selling their stuff. Some sells perfume from the Barcias tress that only can b grow in the Blessed Land which has a fragrant smell.
Children chased each other on the streets. Slaves also find safety there. And in the evening the sun will beamed down on the Blessed Land and the view isbeautiful.
I hope like Levitia the 8 races will make the same decision and turned back. Looking at the path before me, I pray for the first time.
Let us see reason.
*********** ******************* ************************

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Comments (1)

  1. Allecrast
    July 30th, 2015 at 03:36:18 AM

    Whoa, AoH invades japtem!



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