Chapter 8- Meeting the prince.
With the capital of the Empire lies royal palace with houses the ruling family. Within the inner circle also lies the Nobility district. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that the Nobility district was infinitely better looking compared to the other districts.
The buildings and facilities that occupied the district were amazing, and well maintained. Trimmed trees, along with mana fueled lanterns populated the streets. Roads, wide enough that anyone can walk around with little to no issue.
A clear difference between the Nobility district and all the others are the knights patrolling the grounds. Like policemen’s, they wandered the streets, watching over the nobles that are going about their days. Carriages, moving to and from every day.
In one of these carriages housed Shae and myself.
After the issue with Rumo challenging us, we managed to defuse the situation. Now we were on our way to meet with the Prince. Sitting the in the carriage, the two of us were sitting in silence. Namely, the both of us were unsure of what to really say or do but to wait.
Scheduling a date to meet with the Prince, along with Rumo and the others. Most of our times, we spent making preparations. However it wasn’t just us, Sirva would be accompany us in secret along the way. There was still the matter of the king that was left unresolved.
“Young lords…we have reached the gates.” The stiff voice of the carriage driver called out.
“I see.” The carriage slowed to a halt, and the two of us disembarked. Unlike the other districts, no one is allow to enter the Nobility district without first going through a check. Paying the old man for the travel fairs, we went about our business.
“Halt!” reaching the gate, we were immediately stopped by a pair of guards. “Only those of nobility status are allow to pass. Do you have any indication?”
“Will this suffice?” Pulling the golden armband of the Empire. The guard’s eyes widened. Again, the Chancellor mentioned that the armbands represent one’s status not only in the academy but also importance in the empire. At the very least, it was equivalent to a high status within the nobility side.
Looking to his partner to reconfirm my pass, we were on our way. Passing through the gate felt similar to passing through a portal to another world. The scenery changed dramatically. Focusing on the task at hand, we walked towards the Royal Palace. Even from such a distance, its grandeur could be witness.
It was fairly hard to miss as it towered over a majority of the buildings here. With our destination in front of us, we marched on our way. The path of the palace was straightforward, it would take but mere seconds to reach it if chose to. Instead, it’s always nice to take the scenic route sometime.
My eyes darted from side to side, taking glimpses of the world before me. Every store and location contrasted those I’ve seen. It took all I had from simply running off to explore and learn more. However, I wasn’t the only one taking curious glances.
The nobles, whom were out and about all stared at us. Adults whispered and murmured to one another while frequent children would point and wonder with curious eyes. It wasn’t hard to see why.
For starters, our attire were completely out of place. We both decided to wear our school uniform, that is to say our battle uniform. The nobles on the other hand all wore, neat and exquisite suits and dresses. We were the ones out of place.
“Huh…Déjà vu.” The entire situation felt the same as when we first entire the Empire. I couldn’t help but chuckle at fate’s action. Enjoying our walk, we reached the palace within minutes.
What greeted us was a tall and majestic building. The palace look to take inspiration from medieval castle and a cathedral combined. Golden archways, crafted spires, minted glassware. The palace fitted the expression ‘A palace fir for a king.’ Even I couldn’t stop myself from gawking.
Leading up to the palace was a massive, white marble stairway. The stairway stretched all around the palace. At the bottom of the stairways stood guards. The guard stood with the stair way to their backs. The guards formed a segmented row, a pair of guards every few meters from one another.
Walking forward, we were immediately halted by a pair of guards. “Halt! Beyond here lies the palace of the Arthur’s royal family. To what business do you have here?”
“We would like entrance please.” I politely answered.
“Then show us your invitation letter.” The second guard responded.
“That is correct. Only those that belong to the Royal family are allow entrance. Everyone else must have an invitation letter as proof. Do you have it or not?” The guard repeated the question with mild annoyance.
Shae threw me a glance. ‘Did you know about this?’ it said, to which I replied. ‘No.’
Rumo simply stated that we just need to travel to the palace. Not once had he brought up something as important as a letter of invitation. I couldn’t help but click my tongue at the inconvenience of the situation. Glancing back to the guards, their patients waned.
“I’m sorry but we don’t have an invitation. Will this work?” Clearing my throat I showed my golden armband. The guards simply glanced at it before looking back to me.
“No. Now if you are done, then leave.” The guard answered back, done with the conversation.
“Damn it.” Shae cursed, out of patient. “Just let us through so we can meet the stupid prince already!” Angrily, Shae shouted and pointed towards the palace.
“How dare you!” Both the guard roared, pointing their halberds at Shae. The sharpened top, mere centimeters from Shae’s head. “You insolent wrench, how dare you speak such vulgar words at the royal family. Take back your words back.”
The two guard’s eye were filled with bloodlust, ready to strike her down. Wearily glancing towards Shae, she showed an unconcerned face as always. Knowing her personality, the odds of Shae apologizing was next to none. Waiting in silence, one of the guard’s patient ran dry. Lifting his weapon into the air, it descended with the intent to kill.
During mid fall, Shae let out an exasperated sigh and raised her fingers. Grasping the blade of the halbred, Shae stopped the attack with her fingers! The sudden halt in momentum caused the guard to stumble abruptly. Their eyes widened in surprise and fear at the sight before them.
Flicking her arm, the guard tumbled and fell on his bottom. The two of them stared dumfoundly at what transpired. “We’re going, whether you like it or not.” Not waiting for the guard, Shae walked forward. Before I could say anything, the guard that fell recovered. Preparing a swing, he swung aiming for Shae’s neck.
Shae, was just as quick to respond. In a fluid motion, she spin her body with the sole of her leg. Punching the halberd, the blade shattered into tiny fragments. The broken scattered into the air like dust. All the guard could do was star dumbfoundly at his once precious weapon.
“Everyone here sure like to piss me off.” Hearing Shae’s growl, the guards backed up in terror. Throwing a straight punch towards his chest. The guard with the broken halberd was sent flying. His partner gaze shifted back between him and Shae. His eyes full of disbelief.
Distracted, Shae attacked him with a straight punch to the chest. The body ragged dolled, as if hit by a truck. Rolling on the ground, his partner gawked at the horror in front of him.
“Help! Reinforcements!” Collecting his bearing, the remaining guard called out. The scattered guards that surrounded the palace collapsed on our position. Encircling us, they kept a safe distance while brandishing their weapon.
“Great…Any other great idea?” Assessing the situation, I couldn’t help but let out a sarcastic remark. To which Shae snickered in defense. As the tension boiled over, a third party interfered.
“Enough!” A loud, and booming voice called out catching all of our attention. It was Rumo. Appearing above the steps, he slowly descended. Upon seeing him, the guards stood at attention and saluted to Rumo.
“What’s going on here? Did you do this?” Pointing his finger towards the unconscious guard, Rumo wasn’t too happy.
“If you want to blame anyone, blame yourself.” Shae answered back, throwing an accusatory finger at Rumo. “We got here as you said but the guards didn’t let us in because we didn’t have some stupid paper. Of which, you didn’t even inform us about.”
The guards all gave hostile gazes at Shae, not taking kindly to her words. Neutrally staring back at the guard and Shae. Rumo did something unexpected.
“You are correct…” Rumo apologized. Bowing his head, Rumo apologized to Shae. “Forgive me, it must have slipped my mind.” It was hard to determine Shae’s true expression at the moment. As she was unable to show any real facial expression. I for one was completely taken a back. And so too were the guards, however we were attracting unwanted attention.
People started to crowd around the area as a result of Shae’s action.
“It’s fine…We have more important business to take care of.” Cutting in, I wanted to resolve the matter quickly.
“You are correct. Follow me.” Ushering us forward, the two of us followed Rumo. Inside, we walked through the main interior of the palace. The outside was impressive but the interior was spectacular.
The flooring and wall were beautiful and looked to be delicately hand crafted. Everywhere we walk was a treat for the eye. Following Rumo, we crossed many different corners and interior courtyards. Each one was fitted with a decorative little garden.
“You know you guys really need to do something about your guard.” Walking in silence, Shae wouldn’t drop the issue.
“Of that we can agree on.” Again, Rumo surprised me again. “I’ve put in multiple requests to discipline the guards. Lately most have been idle and meek about their duties. However my request have be suffocated by other matters. For now, all I can do is wait.”
Ending the conversation, the three of us delved further into the palace. Slowly the scenery changed, a subtle change. Guards were stationed around the hallways. Unlike the normal knights we’ve seen so far, they were more decorated.
They wore medium golden armor with the Empire insignia. Each knight wore a solemn expression, one void of emotion. Their eyes trained forward, with one sole mindset. It was a bit eerie how they were unresponsive they were as we passed by.
Ignoring them, we eventually arrived at a massive, decorated double door. It was nowhere near as impressive as the one back within the Sanctuary. But it was impressive. Reaching our destination, the pair of guards at the door opened the door for us.
Entering what greeted was the sight of a throne room. The room expanded nearly 20 by 20 meters. The throne room outshined everything seen so far. On the left and right side housed beautiful, crystal stained glass. Depicting a mosaic of some symbolic image.
Complementing the glamorous windows were equally elegant woven tapestries that only brought the room more to life. Crystal chandeliers hung from the sky, illuminating the room in a faint glow. Even the floor worth around an arm and a leg to even keep tidy.
Aside from these wonderful feature, the room was rather barren. Anything else of noticeable worth was the throne, tables scattered about. Entering the room, my eyes immediately settled on throne. On it sat none other than the prince himself, Alphonso.
Seeing him again, I couldn’t help but blink twice. With a closer and better look, I couldn’t help but shake my head at the resemblance. Everything from his ocean blue eyes and chiseled features to his golden white flowing hair and radiate expression was near identical to the Guild Master of the Holy Knight Guild. Arthur.
Snapping out my daze, I made some quick observation. Much like Rumo and the other, Alphonso wore a medium carapace armor. The armor combined the color of silver and gold, complimenting his hair. However, what immediately struck my attention was the item holstered to his waist.
‘Excalibur.’ The first through that came to mind. An Abyss class item, [Eternia] highest classification of weapon. We already know that the other swords retain their use. Although weakened, an Abyss class item was nothing to carelessly disregard.
Snapping my sight away, it would be too suspicious if I continue to stare. Breaking away, I took in the rest of the room. The other five sword heirs were in the room but there was more. Guards were posted around the room at fixed location. Finally, standing next to the throne and the prince were a wide variety of elder man. From their scholarly attire, they seemed to be ministers that would assist the king. Even Chancellor Issian could be spotted among the group.
As the two of us carefully walked forward, a voice rang through my head. “Hey…Do you see it?” Shae sent an Echo message, allowing us to converse in secret.
“Yes…” I responded. Upon entering the Throne room, I felt an extra pair of eyes watching the two of us apart from the prince and the ministers. Using our radars, my suspension was proven true.
“Who do you suppose it is?” Shae asked.
“Don’t know. Whoever they are, they are skilled. Can’t be anyone from the Empire. All that is left is…”
“The Black Order…” Shae echoed, finishing my thoughts. “How do you want us to hand this? We could take the prince down and interrogate the spy…This is a perfect opportunity.”
“No…for now we play passively. Besides, I don’t think our little friend means us an immediate harm.”
“Why do you say that?” Shae returned with skepticism.
“For starters, look at everyone around us. They are clearly high ranking officials. I don’t think they would risk a battle breaking out in here if it means hurting the prince and the ministers. If anything, they might simply be observing us.”
“And if you are wrong?” Her single sentence cause me to momentarily pause.
“If I’m wrong…and they attack…Then we will fight back. But only if we need to. Other than that we stick to the plan.”
“Roger that.” Cutting off the link, we finally stood face to face with the prince. Alphonso D. Arthur.
“Welcome! It’s a pleasure to finally meet you two.” Welcoming us with open arms, the prince stepped forward to greet us. “You must be Nu-Ru? I’ve heard many things about you, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Extending his hand, it was a rare sight to see. Someone of royal descendant treating a stranger as an equal. Not one to offend, I accepted his handshake.
“The pleasure is all mine.” Returning the same enthusiasm, I returned the smile.
“And you must be Shae. I’ve a number of things about you as well. Beautiful but as strong as tens of our knights.” Complimenting Shae, the prince took one of her arm and brought it up to his lips. Planting his lips against her hand, it reminded me of those cliché scenes you would see in old time movies.
Looking away, she made a barfing motion, that, luckily for us. Only the two of us caught it. Finishing his business, he walked back to the throne. ‘He seems like a good fellow but…’ Despite the initial first impression I felt an unease around him. The way he acted, it seems stilted and fake.
Taking his seat on the throne, Alphonso started the meeting. “Thank you all for joining me. Forgive me but I would like to get straight to the point of this meeting.” Looking to his side, he nodded and one of the minister stepped forward.
“Recently we have had reports of some monster sighting near one of the cities.” In this new world, monster existed and played the same role as it did in [Eternia]. As mob like hordes. We know one example from Drakus and those humanoid crocodile creature.
“The reports about the creatures itself is fuzzy. But we have determined that the monsters have a danger rank of F. There’s also the possibility of creature being led by a E rank monster.” As I continued to listen in, I couldn’t help but wander in my own thoughts.
Back in Eternia monsters weren’t only rank by levels, they had categories.
Regulars, mega, major, ultra, legendary, master, enigma, ancient and finally god tier. Their level, health, ability, and status depends on what tier they are. Typically a way of knowing what tier a monster was, was by looking at their colored health bar. Mobs of random enemies were regular and mega base, sometime with a major tier enemy leading them. Other higher tier were randomly spawned here and there, namely in dungeons. Typical of any MMO’s or RPG’s.
This world categories monster level of danger through letter. But the only question now is, what attributes to a monster’s ranking. With no data, I couldn’t exactly determine the threat level.
“These monster…are they truly so dangerous that we are required? Why not send a bunch of soldier to deal with the issue.” Despite asking the question, I already knew the answer. The Empire were a rather conceited bunch, and rarely mingled with the other nation, say for the Regios Kingdom.
They were mostly self-sufficient, but the downside to that was their strength was limited. The knights under the Empire command are properly train and strong. Should they lose scores of knights, but only will their policing force fall in strength but also their military strength.
Recklessly sending their own troops to their doom was a foolhardy decision. But that ultimately what I was asking. If losing dozens of knights was detrimental then those that have the capacity to weird the legendary swords will be catastrophic.
Why risk shooting themselves in the foot with such a decision? No matter how many times I tried to wrap my head around it, it still makes no logical sense.
The minister opened his mouth to answer, instead the prince was the one who answered my question. “It is true that sending our knights will be the most effective strategy, however against such monsters there will be casualties. However, I have the utmost confidence that Rumo and the other will be victorious! The legendary swords passed down by our predecessor proves this. Each one holds strength equally a hundred knight!”
“You are too kind.” Taking the compliment, Rumo and the other bowed in honor before the prince.
‘He certainly has a way with words’ I thought, even I felt roused up by his speech. However that did not soothe the unease I felt. The words did rang true, with the legendary swords, they were worth around a hundred knights. Unfortunately, it’s already been proven that the swords are in a weakened state.
“I see, you are correct.” Either way, Rumo and the others didn’t look to be backing down. Moving onto the next topic, they laid out a large map of the Empire. It was a detailed map of the Capital, the surrounding villages and landscapes.
“The monsters have created their base here.” Pointing on the map, the minister pointed to a patch of green that represented a forest. “The villages have already been evacuated. All that is left is to form a plan against the creatures. Currently they are few that argues for the strategy of attacking in all direction. While another idea is to attack from one direction with all of our forces.”
Leaving us with the opinions available, looking them over, none seem all that appealing. “If I may.” Raising my hand, I proposed a different strategy. “I propose a different plan. We know that the beasts are held up in the center of the forest. With the first strategy, splitting us apart one by one will lead to heavy casualties. With the secondary strategy, there is the risk of the monsters escaping as we are sweeping forward.”
Pointing out the flaws in their plan, many of the ministers nodded their head in recognition. “So I propose this strategy. We split into two group and attack from the north and south. A pincer attack.” Using my hands, I demonstrated the effectiveness of my idea. “Additionally, if we can’t use any knights directly. Then we can have them posted around the forest just in case any escape.”
“Hmm, and why do you believe this plan will work over the others?” Objecting, the first to object was the prince. Taking a minute, I explained my mindset.
We know that the creatures have made a base within in the center of the forest. They will be on the defensive front of the battle. With this new strategy, there is a low risk of the beasts running away and a higher chance to wipe them out.
With the limited resources, and refusal of additional reinforcement of extra knights. The strategy was the best I could come up with. Quiet, the prince considered my words before giving his opinion. “Very well then, we shall go with your strategy.”
Giving his answer, my eye widened in surprise. ‘Just like that?’ The plan I gave had several flaws, yet he readily accepted the idea with no complaints. Either he would alter the plan later on or he’s overconfident in my ability. It made me uneasy.
“Thank you for the honor, your highness.” Either way, I should take the compliment. “When we will we launch the extermination?”
“We will first need to reallocate available knights to ensure a perimeter around the forest first. While that is going on, the eight of you will prepare the necessity for the fight ahead. We shall notify you when everything is ready.”
“Until then rest up for the fight ahead. Remember, you are fighting not only to exterminate those monster. But for the entire Empire itself. Good luck to all of you. Glory to the Empire!”
Rounding up the minister orders, the prince gave one last speech. Rousing everyone back up. Everyone began the chant. “Glory to the Empire!” Joining in, the chant died down. With nothing else to discuss, we were to be escorted out.
However, there was one last unfinished business. I’ve debated in my mind whether or not to go through with it or not. But’s now or never!
“Excuse me, but…where is the King?” As everyone turned their backs away from one another, my question cut through the silence. All turning to me, everyone revealed a startled expression. The only ones unaffected were Shae, myself and the prince.
Looking directly at the prince, the two of us engage in a silent staring contest.
“Why do you ask this?” The prince answered back with a question of his own.
“Forgive me for speaking out of line, but I first had imagine the king giving us the report. Seeing as this is a potential national issue…” It would make sense that the king would be the one giving us the briefing. Instead it’s the prince. No matter which way you look at it, it’s strange.
Glancing to the ministers, some couldn’t control themselves and revealed frightened expression. Already this was a bad sign.
“He is sick.” Abruptly, the prince answered back.
“He’s sick?” Just as Sirva reported. Asking the question was meant to test the prince. If something truly did happen to the king, it would cause massive panic. And only those with close connection would know the truth, or what they perceived the truth will be. If the answer he gave be different from what we know, then something truly is afoot.
Of course, there was the possibility of the reasoning being a lie. But as of now, we have no true way of discerning whether that is true or not. Unless we locate the king. At the very least we know this, whatever is going on behind the scene. They’ve covered their tracks.
Receiving my answer, there was nothing left to do. “I see. Forgive me for speaking out of turn.” Apologizing and bowing for a second, the prince remained quiet.
“It’s of no consequence. My father is sick, that is why I am here in his stead. If anything, I am grateful that you care for his wellbeing.” Walking forward, the prince flash a warm smile while laying one of his hand on my shoulder.
“Of course…” Finally, we were on our way. Parting ways with Rumo and the others. Shae and I left the royal palace by ourselves. As the two of us were walking down the street, I looked back upon the meeting.
“Hey. Penny for your thoughts?” Slapping my shoulder, Shae looked over.
“I just…I can’t help but wonder.”
“Are you talking about the prince?” Shae asked.
“It’s not just Alphonso…It’s the entire situation we are in.” With the current state of affairs, we have no true idea of what’s going on behind the scenes. The king is currently missing but no one is making a fuss. From an outsider point of view, the situation is perfectly fine.
The prince is gallantly taking over the king’s duty, as good son and future leader would do. At the same time, it’s a shift in power. Currently all authority is controlled and goes through the prince. If that’s the case, then the situation is direr than originally anticipated.
Then there was the matter of the spy. Throughout our meeting, we were left alone. Again, Shae’s words echoed in my head. Despite their neutral advents, I couldn’t positively pinpoint their true objective. Was it to simply spy on us, confirming our loyalty to the Empire. Or perhaps a confirmation of a different matter. Whether or not if we were in leagues with the Regios princess.
If so, then did our ruse work? We were undisturbed throughout the meeting. That would mean our plan of showing false loyalty to the Empire work. Or perhaps they knew all along and waited to see how we would react.
Anxiety boiled within my body. For every possible scenario I ponder, two more paths open up. Before, I believed that playing defensively was the correct opinion. Now, I’m not too sure.
For now, all we can do is play along and hope that things don’t get out of hand.
If you enjoyed the chapter or have a witty comment, go ahead and write it.