Chance - Meet the Over-Achiever
The next day, I went straight to school and didn’t wait for Jaden. I left a voice message on Ven’s phone to meet me behind the gymnasium. Then I added that it was very urgent. It didn’t really take much time before he appeared. Curiously, Morsus was present as well.
“Bring me along.” I urged. Ven and Morsus just looked at each other after I said that. The younger one just shook his head. “I will not take no for an answer.”
“I understand that you’re frustrated, but this isn’t really a safe expedition.” Ven argued. I clenched my fist, but it wasn’t much of a retaliation. “You’ll just give Rei more reason to constrict you under his protection. I don’t like the idea of you being tortured for the sake of being safe.”
I just frowned at him. For being right. “But—“
“We don’t need the extra baggage. That’s what Ven is really trying to say, Chance.” Morsus quipped harshly. I was taken back. “You’ll just screw up the whole sneaking part because you’re the last person I know whom I would call as an asset.”
“I’m still part of this team.” It was all I could say. But the younger boy just gave a cocky smile. “Let me be a part of this. I want to help you.”
“You’re the last person I’ll ask help from, Chance. When did you start assuming you were ever part of our operation?” Morsus asked severely. It was almost like a snarl. “You’re the damsel in distress. Nothing but a damsel that gives us stress.”
“You have already involved me. And Jaden suffered for it. If our enemies are planning to drag my other friends, too, then it’s my responsibility to protect them.” I firmly stated. Ven just looked at me. Eye to eye. “I will not stay idle at the sidelines. If you don’t let me, then Rei will know about this.”
“How dare you blackmail us!” Morsus glared at me.
“He’s right.” Ven resigned. He didn’t give much of a fight. His eyes studied me very carefully. Morsus wanted to throw another insult, but Ven signaled him to calm down. “You can come along, but you’ll follow whatever I tell you, got it?”
“Yes.” I replied.
Ven quickly snapped his finger, and a man landed right beside him. I almost shrieked from the surprise. But as he stood up, the man looked in his mid-20’s. His skin had an intense tan on it, and the first thing that came into my mind as I studied him was a ninja. The man looked Arabic, and his eyes were a light amber. His dark hair was combed neatly. And short stubbles of facial hair were present through his jawline.
The mysterious man was clothed mostly in black attire. A black cotton trench coat was over his dashing dark suit and black trousers. However, I could see hints of weaponry hidden underneath them. It made me raise an eyebrow when I noticed a holster under his arm, complete with the sidearm inside.
“This is Baltair Drekhar. He is one of the personal guards of my contact in the Citadel of Jeonnan. My friend and I have come a long way, and we’ll be meeting with him shortly.” Ven introduced. The man just silently nodded at me. His silence was quite alluring. “He’ll be directly teleporting us there.”
“Wait.” Morsus warned. “That kind of spatial magic is dangerous!”
“It is. We could die if this is mishandled.” Ven acknowledged. My fingers twitched at the sound of possible death. “But my friend makes sure that his personal guards are competent.”
“How come teleporting there is more dangerous than how we teleported the first time?” I asked. Morsus just looked at me annoyingly, but Ven shrugged. “I’m sure there’s a difference, but I don’t see the logic behind it.”
“First, there is intricate parallelism between your dimension and ours. The United States and Zidania are quite aligned. Meanwhile, the Citadel of Jeonnan might be parallel somewhere in western Russia. That spot is like thousands of miles away.” Morsus explained it swiftly. “Second, all Citadels of Solus Magus, as well as some of their remote territories, are protected by ancient barriers. Getting through them is quite tricky.”
I replied with nothing. My question was satisfied.
Ven nodded at Baltair, and the man suddenly did some sort of hand signs with both hands. After that, he knelt and touched the ground with his palm. Some writings started to slither around and formed a circle around Ven, Morsus, and I. Then, the next thing I know was that we were inside a huge room. It was like a palace, and we were in some sort of mini throne room.
The teleportation was so quick and smooth. My surroundings just faded from my school back in Saintsville into a spacious room. It looked better than a Powerpoint presentation.
I peeked around, and it seems we were located in some sort of room at the Citadel side. There were huge windows that showed us a grand view of a seemingly endless forest. I concluded that the monstrous building was on the side of a mountain. An elevated scene of the outside gave me a picturesque feeling.
But there was no actual throne in the room. There was just a massive table in the middle of it. Only one chair seemed to stand above the rest. Whoever sat there was undoubtedly significant. Most likely, Ven’s friend. Everything else looked really prim and proper.
“You have got to learn how to do that spatial magic teleportation whatever.” I whined towards Morsus. But he was just irked by what I said. “The last time Ven teleported me here, I almost threw up my spleen. This was a lot smoother.”
“Easier said than done.” He replied with a smirk. “And that says a lot because I’m far more superior and talented than you.”
I shrugged it off, and when I looked around further, Baltair was nowhere to be found. He was replaced by another man who just entered the colossal door and was cheerfully greeted by Ven.
“Master Ven, it has been a while.” The man grinned warmly. Both of them did a quick embrace, like old friends. “You have certainly grown a lot since I last saw you.”
The man was partially wearing a knight’s armor. Only the breastplate was worn, and some sort of sigil was engraved in the middle of it. The rest was some sort of brown medieval leather. It contrasted the silvery and gold breastplate perfectly.
He looked about a man of mid-’30s. Really huge and more than 6-feet tall. He could probably step on Morsus by accident. But his handsome face was gentle and rigid at the same time. His dark brown hair was trimmed nicely, and his hazel eyes spoke volumes of wisdom. His calm demeanor was entirely similar to how I would imagine a noble knight.
“This is Sir Dagon Noward la Aristaeus, Blade of the Dartmack Hills.” Ven said. The man just gave a quick bow to Morsus and me. As he did so, he closed his right fist and tapped his right chest twice. It was probably some sort of salute. “He is the Captainsgarde of my friend’s Royal Kingsblade. He is also a good friend of ours.”
“This is Chance Valentine. It seems that he was Israfil’s chosen vessel.” Ven introduced me afterward to the man who towered over me. “This is the second time that he was visited Altimeraea. The first time wasn’t so good.”
“Greetings, Master Chance.” Then he shook my hand firmly. Despite being a hulking, intimidating figure, he was a true gentleman. “I must say, you do look a lot like Master Israfil.”
“Please drop the Master title, Sir Dagon.” I replied. My cheeks were kind of warm whenever he would mention it that way. “I’m a lot of things except a master.”
“I must insist, Master Chance.” Sir Dagon chuckled. His handsome face barely showed any wrinkle lines. “My lord will surely give me an earful if I do not address his guests in high esteem. And who is this younger lad?”
“This is Morsus Galva. He was traveling around Altimeraea when your envoy stayed in Ravenport. He stayed here in Jeonnan for a year to study because he is a Rune Mage.” Ven introduced Morsus. The two shook hands shortly. But the young boy just kept silent. “He is also a close friend of Israfil.”
“Greetings, Master Morsus. You have interesting fellows, Master Ven.” The knight quipped and scratched his chin. “Rune Mages are powerful warriors. They are the most versatile amongst all the mages. I don’t think I have to wits to study such a lot of complicated magic.”
“You studied here?” I whispered to Morsus. But the boy just completely ignored me. “This place looks more like a royal castle than an actual school.”
“Master Ven, you mentioned that this was urgent business, correct? Then let’s get to the important matters as soon as possible. “ Sir Dagon urged. “My lord must be ready now. I shall be on my way to retrieve His Highness.”
The man swiftly and gracefully made his exit from the room.
“Holy crap. You’re friends with some royal dude?” I gawked at Ven.
“Yeah.” He replied. “A couple of years ago, my friend was sent to Zidania on some diplomatic mission, and Israfil’s family hosted his envoy. It was only a couple of weeks but turned our guest into a friend. That was the last time I saw him.”
“Plus, what’s with the title after this long name?” I asked. “Blade of the Dart-something hills. What was that for?”
“In their culture, titles are given if they have won major battles. This world isn’t perfect. Rebels sometimes arise. Or there will be a war between the country and some external enemies.” Ven disclosed. His eyes were thoughtful. “However, I’ve never really asked how Sir Dagon acquired his.”
“It sounded like a huge battle.” I commented.
There was a knock on the door, and Sir Dagon entered.
“His Highness has arrived.” Sir Dagon announced formally. His voice boomed all over the room. “I present to you the crowned prince of the Kingdom of Sevel, Prince Zein Cenhelm Estmond zi Aleksandri, Sixth of His Name, Glaive of the Newbalt Plains, High Guard of the Rockramcroft, and the Sentinel of Sundora Isles.”
“Holy crap. Three titles?” I muttered under my breath to Morsus.
He pulled the door open, and a child, even younger Morsus, came out. He looked like 8 or 9 years old. The young boy came in with a natural poise in his relatively modest royal robes. It was simple and elegant in the shade of brown. Then a dark cloak with silver and gold embroidery rested on his shoulders. It reached until the back of the knees.
The young prince walked timidly to his chair across us. Sir Dagon helped him by pulling the heavy seat for him. And the only thing I did was stare at him all the way. This tiny kid won three significant battles worthy of praise. The last thing I wanted was to believe it. But as an added insult, there was a testimony of his victors. A small scar could be found on the right side of his prominent jawline. Plus, another one on the left side of his neck.
“I’ve missed you, my dear friend. How I wish we have met again in such less than dire circumstances.” The young prince greeted. His voice was so soft and high-pitched like a frail child. It sounded ridiculously innocent, as if he never slaughtered men in battle. “I’m just happy that you brought me new people that I could befriend. I have forgotten my socializing skills, so pardon me if I accidentally say something inappropriate. My life has been quite busy, especially as my father had given me more responsibilities.”
“The Rockramcroft title is new.” Ven chuckled.
“Some southern pirates decided to attack the small town when I was taking a vacation. So, I empowered some of the villagers and fended off the attackers for three days and two nights.” Prince Zein explained and looked downwards. His tone was profoundly sad. “It’s horrifying to remember that they killed some of the kids. I didn’t deserve the title, really. We won the battle, but we lost some of the next generation.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Your Highness. Any loss of life is tragic.” Ven muttered. “But I’m afraid we don’t have much time. Let’s discuss what we have come for.”
There was an exchange of names across the table after that. Ven started talking about what had happened for the past year regarding Israfil. Prince Zein listened intently to what my companion would disclose. I managed to get a good look at his boyish features. Light freckles were splattered on his nose and cheek area. His head was full of dark auburn that was shaggy. A good portion of it was braided from the back of his right ear and rested on his collarbone. His facial features were elegant and good-looking.
Yet there was no crown on his head.
But the one thing that anyone would notice the most were his eyes. They were weirdly beautiful. The prince’s eyes were bright blue with a tint of silver. But near the area around the pupil had a greenish hue with a speck of gold and hazel. His eyes were genuinely dazzling and would shift colors along with his movements. They were just full of life.
As soon as Ven explained the plan, it was followed by a short silence.
“Morsus and I will be leaving shortly and head to the Room of Hoshi’therossi. I think we will just take a few minutes. But as soon as we get back, we want to ask for your guidance.” Ven said. “And what we’re about to do violates the Ordinances of Solus Magus. I hope that this will be done under confidentiality.”
“I shall keep my mouth shut.” The prince replied. Ven’s face was determined, and the prince welcomed an honest request. “I’ll stay here in this room with Chance. I think we will get along just fine.”
“Thank you for this, Your Highness. I won’t ever forget this.” Ven said. He and Morsus bowed before the prince and swiftly left the room through the massive door.
“Your face looks like you have a lot of questions.” Prince Zein said to me.
“There aren’t much, really.” I replied. “Uhm, Your Highness.”
The young prince just chuckled like the child that he is. “You’re quite funny, my friend. For someone who looks like Israfil, you’re very different in that aspect. That other friend of mine is quite stiff at times. I saw the look on your face when I entered the room, you know.”
“Ven told me a while ago that honorary titles are given those who won battles worth of praise. You got three. More titles than a Knight.” I confessed. It sounded stupid to question a crowned prince’s title, but Prince Zein was relaxed and listened intently. “I didn’t expect you to be so young.”
“On the contrary, my older twin brother and I are turning fifteen after a couple of months.” He replied. And I wasn’t able to hide the surprised look on my face. The young prince was even older than I am. Unbelievable! “Yes, it seems that both of us are late bloomers. But it doesn’t really matter. Regarding your question, it’s a matter of competition and expectation. It takes some time for a young Knight to be given a chance to lead a small army into a battle. However, our father had groomed us for such things at a very young age.”
“We were given the best strategists as our mentors. And I was deployed for a battle at the age of 9. Even if I had Knights with me who are strong, my father gave the task of coming up with the strategy.“ The young prince continued. His eyes glimmered into a shade of green before turning hazel. “Of course, I feared for my life back then. I shall not deny that.”
“That’s amazing, Your Highness.” I remarked. His honesty about his fear was refreshing, too. “I’ve lived for thirteen years, and I’m still a potato. Meanwhile, some of the royalties in our world are just spoiled rotten.”
The young prince just chuckled at the sentiment. “A potato is at least helpful and necessary for our bodies to function.”
“May I ask something, Your Highness?” I requested.
“Go. By all means.” Prince Zein replied. “Ask something interesting.”
“I’m just slightly confused. You are a crowned prince of a kingdom, but you’re currently staying within another. May I ask why?” I inquired. He tilted his head and tried to study my expression. “I feel guilty for bothering you with our problems when you’re possibly in another diplomatic mission.”
“I am not in a diplomatic mission. And I was not really bothered. In fact, it gave me joy that I get to meet some old friend again.” Prince Zein replied. His boyish grin was genuine and infectious. “The Ministry of Solus Magus is an independent inter-dimensional State that is dedicated to protecting our magical heritage. The Citadels house thousands of books. Jeonnan specifically focuses on Divination Magic. Rune Mages are sent here for that.”
“That makes sense why Ven urged us to go here.” I pointed out. “Are you trying to spy on certain enemies then?”
“I’m afraid not.” The prince corrected. Then there was a short pause. He looked a bit conflicted about what to say next. “My father sent me here to look for clues about a certain prophecy. He said that a huge war is coming, and the prophecy is the key that could help us defeat the incoming adversary.”
“That’s kind of scary.” I shivered.
“My father said that there will be a young person who will bring forth great darkness in Altimeraea.” He added. The chill went down my spine as the image of Samael showed up in my head. “But the same person will also bring forth the light that will give liberty to the people. It’s really kind of weird and sketchy. That’s why he wanted that specific prophecy.”
“Maybe he will be redeemed.” I replied.
“That will be an interesting twist to the story.” Prince Zein affirmed. Then he started to stand up and walking towards the far end of the room. “But I’m feeling quite the glee today. Come with me, my friend. Let’s eradicate boredom and answer your question at the same time.”
I followed him until we both stood at the other end of the mini throne room. It was pretty spacious despite being within an enclosed space. “I don’t think I have a question, Your Highness.”
“Spar with me, Chance Valentine. I clearly see the doubts you have over my fighting abilities.” The young prince admonished. Suddenly, a spear appeared in his hands. It even looked larger because of the young prince’s body structure. He wasn’t really that tall, after all. The shaft was mostly made of silver, while the blade at the tip was designed with gold highlights. Markings could be seen at various parts of the weapon. “This is the weapon that won all of my battles, Brastius.”
“I respectfully decline, Your Highness.” I objected. But I was more surprised at the fact that I was doubtful of his achievements. My remark about my amazement was seen as fake. “I feel like it would be a big insult if challenge a have a spar with a royal prince.”
“It’s a bigger disrespect if you declined such offers. Sir Dagon always give me a boring fight because he doesn’t want to go all out.” He replied. “Besides, you need to represent Israfil. We have a settle to score.”
“But I’m not Israfil, Your Highness.” I protested.
“That’s why I asked you to represent him.” The prince chortled. He looked really excited for some reason. Then he raised his spear as if he was ready to strike me anytime. “Let’s settle with two minutes. Your goal is to cut my braid. If you fail to do so, then you lose.”
“Okay.” I replied. “I’ll play with you, Your Highness.”
“Great!” The young prince gave a goofy grin. Then he produced a small round golden ball in his fingers. He flicked it upwards into the air. “We start as soon as it hits the ground.”
The ball clanged on the floor.
Before I could prepare a spell, the prince made his move. He charged with his spear and went straight for my head. I managed to dodge it at the last second, and I instinctively summoned a couple of dark blades. My hands moved on their own and deflected it away with my short weapons.
He used the force I made to deflect his weapon into the jumpstarting the momentum of his next swing. I managed to duck at the last second, but he managed to throw a powerful spin kick that threw me off a couple of feet away. Despite having a small body, his strength was incredible. Before I could even recover, he launched his spear at me.
It made me use the same deflective spell I used against Morsus’ fireballs and jolted the spear away. The thing flew back to the other end of the enormous room, but it disappeared before it even landed. Prince Zein just had it back to his hand and charge at me with his ferocious speed. So, I used the chance to summon dozens of spikes from my shadows directed at him. He pulled back at the last second and threw his spear behind him because I took advantage of his momentum and used a spell to pull him harder.
Before my weapons could make contact, the young prince suddenly teleported to his spear a couple of feet away.
“Interesting.” I commented. Thankfully, I was wearing a hoodie. I already activated the mysterious mark that started to leak a tremendous amount of avroi. But it seems that the prince noticed it, too. I was still able to control, and the markings only extended to my elbow area. “You can teleport your weapon back to your hands and vice versa.”
He didn’t answer and threw the spear at me. I charged towards my opponent, and he seemed surprised that I managed to move faster. As soon as he vanished in front of me, I knew that he teleported to the spear behind me. I quickly spun around while summoning dozens of blades that I had jolted towards the spear’s direction.
But the young prince was nowhere to be found. In my peripheral vision, a small golden ball was hurled towards me. It was then I realized that he teleported to the ball and not his spear. The ball was a weapon, too. It struck me at the side of my head, and I grunted in pain. The thing bounced upwards, and Prince Zein teleported to it. He summoned back his spear and held it upwards. In one stroke, he performed an overhead slash. As the spear travel in one straight line, it quickly morphed into a two-handed sword.
All I could do was step back a couple of feet backward as my opponent was able to gracefully land. He charged aggressively again and utilized his weapon further. The young prince never gave me room to recover. His weapon morphed into a variety of bladed weapons. It turned from a sword to a scimitar, into a rapier, into a lance, and even a battle ax.
I was overwhelmed and did nothing but to defend myself as best as I could. He was able to mix his ability to hack and stab me with his weapon, together with the annoying skill to make quick movements around me. The young prince was using three golden balls and two-bladed weapons simultaneously. It was a miracle that I was even able to defend myself.
“You’re not all that bad!” He complimented. Prince Zein’s next attack was always a potential surprise because he could morph his weapon mid-way during a stroke. He could probably defeat a small army on his own. His titles were suddenly vindicated. “I’m often underestimated because of how I look. And it’s one of my most favored weapons.”
His body was agile and nimble, relying on momentum as his sole source of strength. He could even maximize his short height to strike low enough that it was not practical to defend. So, I had no choice but to keep stepping back. Prince Zein was making a play-thing out of me. I wanted to prepare a gravity-based spell but defending myself from all the attacks cost me all of my focus.
I managed to cast a gravity lock spell on my palm and managed to grab the shaft of his spear as I defended myself. It was the same tactic I used against Morsus in my first skirmish with him. Then I discarded a weapon every time he would attack me with a forceful stroke. Blades after blades fell on the floor. As the number of blades on the floor grew, I activated the lock spell, and all the blades jolted towards him simultaneously.
But he teleported behind me. The weapons changed their directions and hurled themselves towards him while being caught in its trajectory. Then he would blink into a different spot again. My weapons were flying all over the place. The young prince used my own weapons against me! I suddenly found myself defending against his attacks and my own blades.
Almost two-minutes passed by quickly. And I never managed to shift my stance into the offensive. Not even once. That was the moment I realized that close-quarters combat was something I suck at.
Suddenly, There was a knock on the door before it opened.
Both of us stopped midway and carefully turned our heads to see if we were done for. But thankfully, it was both Ven and Morsus. They seemed to be shaken, but they were able to swiftly execute what needs to be done.
The little kid looked wasted and sullen. But Ven looked undoubtedly hopeful.
“What happened to him?” Prince Zein softly said.
“The Eye of Kamitsurugi used up almost all my avroi.” Morsus huffed. Even his eyes had sunk, and his lips were cracking. It was as if he was sealed within a sauna for an hour. “And I could only last a few minutes seeing into last week’s meeting.”
“Come.” The prince urged. “We have matters to discuss.”
“What was happening here?” Morsus whispered.
“Don’t ask.” I replied under my breath. “It was embarrassing. He didn’t even break a sweat.”
“Prince Zein, I still cannot thank you enough for willing to break certain Ordinances for our sake. You may seriously hurt your diplomatic immunity within any of the Solus Magus grounds.” Ven said as we went back to the table. I sat across Morsus while Ven sat across the Prince. “The last thing I would want is for Sevel to be cut off from the knowledge of this world’s heritage. All for our selfishness.”
“Non-sense.” The young prince replied warmly. His glinting gray eyes spoke of noble intentions. Spoiled and rotten was the last thing I would use to describe the young ruler. “As my dear father had always reminded me, weak-minded individuals will simply make a big deal out of the most minor of things. What’s worse is that they would project those weaknesses towards others. That’s what makes politics so dirty.”
“I am not that well informed about matters of politics to make any conclusive opinion about this, Your Highness.” Ven admitted with a slight bow. I was particularly impressed with how he could be so full of poise before a royal friend. “I am very sorry. Perhaps, I could study more about it, then we can discuss the reality of such things some other time.”
“No worries, my friend.” Prince Zein stated warmly. “I applaud you for knowing when to break certain rules to avoid unnecessary politics. Honestly, I do not fully condone your actions. But with the urgency of what you have mentioned, I am more than happy to help take down the Black Sorceress before she becomes a bigger threat.”
“And I am quite grateful that we agree on such important matters. It was a bit of a gamble on my end. I have no intention of ruining my friendship with you.” Ven beamed. But there was a slight pause. “If I could be candid about this, I was afraid that you will not trust what I had to say at first.”
“Let’s not wander over these minor scruples.” Prince Zion replied. Then the young prince raised his hand and signaled Dagon to leave. The huge man bowed solemnly and made an exit for the door. Prince Zein had his eyes softly move towards Morsus. “You may begin by telling us what you have seen.”
“There were three major things that I was able to hear from their discussion. I think most of them are bad because they pertain to an imminent attack at the city of Gyroseus.” Morsus started explaining. His voice was bleak and sour. Ven and the young prince kept their poker faces on. “First is that Teios Kyr is planning to launch an attack on the Zidanian capital, the city of Gyroseus. It seems they’re planning to use some sort of experimental weapons. Whatever they are, the Council doesn’t seem to have any clues. And then there’s the grand plan of Teios Kyr to open the highest dimension in the Great Divide, Elysium.”
“Their grand plan we already knew years ago because the Black Sorceress had been open about it.” Ven pointed out. “However, they never really said what they are planning with it. Opening Elysium requires the most ancient of magic. Even the Ministry of Solus Magus, the center of all magical knowledge, is still in progress of searching their own archives on what could open it.”
“The attack was already predicted by some of the Rytiers in the Knights after they have gathered information on some of the movements. Also, other military movements have contributed to suggesting how to combat these, too.” Morsus continued explaining. The boy looked so happy as he discussed what he was able to gather. It seems that he has a knack for keeping intel. “But they discussed something about a ritual called the Soul Bridge. Teios Kyr is planning to use it.”
I was obviously clueless. After all, I was the newest addition around. But both Ven’s and Prince Zein’s faces resonated with mine. They were just as baffled as I was. And that would most likely be a bad thing.
“It’s the first time I’m hearing about this.” The young prince was the first to break the awkward silence. “Maybe that’s their experimental weapon that will be used in the Capital.”
“I don’t think so.” I objected. Something inside pushed me to say it. The Ritual was for something else. I just knew. Like a distant memory that came into my mind’s eye. Then followed by a slight pain at the side of my head. “You said it’s a Ritual, right? That doesn’t sound like a weapon at all. They’re going to use it to prepare for something bigger.”
“How do you know that?” Ven argued.
“I just know.” I quipped. Then I grabbed a handful of my hair as the pain started to grow. My head swayed a little bit sideward. “It’s like I just know it all along.”
“There’s no proof that you have, I’m afraid.” Prince Zein pointed out. “To me, it sounds like a hunch. But we couldn’t play on hunches if the lives of people are at stake. As a crowned prince, one of my primary duties is to ensure the safety of my people.”
“I meant no disrespect, Prince Zein.” I apologized. “It’s like answering a simple question you already know.”
“None taken.” The young prince chuckled. “The mind can be a funny thing.”
“It’s possible that you’re accessing Israfil’s memories. I couldn’t think of any other explanation.” Morsus observed. Then he looked at me even further. “Israfil is a very knowledgeable person. Both brothers are geniuses when it comes to both intellectual and magical prowess. There’s a reason why they are from the Noble Family.”
“I’ll trust what Israfil knows.” Ven said.
A sharp pain suddenly struck the side of my head. It was like a metal bat was swung to the side of my skull. My hand automatically squeezed my temple. I winced in pain that Morsus was able to take notice.
“Are you okay?” Morsus asked. I started to sweat profusely that even Prince Zein had a raised eyebrow. Another groan escaped my mouth. “Hey! Talk to me.”
“Veronica is just half of the puzzle. The other half is hidden. Like the dark side of the moon. Waiting in the abyss.” I suddenly said. Ven gave me a curious look. But so did Morsus. It was like an insane person was handed to them on a silver platter. “I don’t think they would kill me. They want information from me. Because Israfil is the only key in reviving her.”
All of them fell silent. Dismay was strongly present in their faces.
“The Black Sorceress’ immortality is not of Altimeraean origin. She allowed herself to be killed to test the limits of her newfound immortality. Her true power is yet to be revealed.” I added further. Ven practically gulped so loud. Even Morsus lost his cocky composure. “I think it was too late when Israfil and his companions cornered her. They never saw what was really coming.”
“Where did you get this?” Ven asked with a slightly louder voice. His skin went paler. Even his lips quivered. I could almost see the scenarios play through the terror in his eyes. “We’ve never heard of this. Rei does not always keep us in the loop, but he would never withhold any crucial information like that.”
“I think Teios Kyr is just waiting for Israfil to awaken. Chance must be protected at all costs.” Prince Zein grimly added. The volume of the statement dawned on us harshly. “Then they will take Chance in one swift action. If he falls into the wrong hands, then it’s only a matter of time before the Black Sorceress rises again.”
“They wouldn’t do that until Israfil awakens. Sadly, we don’t even know what it would look like if he does awaken within Chance.” Ven admitted. Morsus opened his mouth but closed it before he could speak. “It’s safe to say that Chance is relatively secured. I’m more curious about where are all this information coming from.”
“Likewise.” Morsus quipped. “Teios Kyr is always a case study in our classes, aside from potential attacks from Fuhrstenvald. That country has never sent a Rune Mage for the past two decades. Either way, information about them is very scarce.”
“I do not blame you, my friend.” Prince Zein said. “My father assigned me to check possible sources that could give Sevel information about Teios Kyr. But their activities are well hidden.”
“Even the Qirian Council lacks intel.” Ven confessed. The young prince just looked at us with sad eyes. “All we were able to gather was some activities near your town. Most were designed to have surveillance over you.”
“The council doesn’t know shit!” I winced. My fingers attempted to massage my temples as I sighed in agony. But it didn’t help. “Samael also has powerful mages within Teios Kyr. There’s this guy Azriel. And then there’s Omniel and Theliel. One of them will be showing up in the attack.”
“I’ve never heard those names.” Ven pointed out. However, Morsus doesn’t look all surprised. “Whenever Teios Kyr is brought up, it’s always centered on Veronica.”
“They’re like officers in their organization. The Six Fallen Archangels. We only have four of the six names. Two more are missing.” I pointed out. All three of them shuddered at the name. “They have been deceiving us all this time, and they’re probably expanding.”
“It’s possible that she had set the attention on her so it would drown all the smaller things that need to be kept in the dark.” Morsus suggested. Ven just nodded at the idea. “She may have built a lot of connections everywhere while taking away everyone’s focus. The Black Sorceress played us.”
“She made herself an effective smokescreen. That means it’s far from over. I think we should regroup with Reizal as soon as we can.” Ven stated. Morsus and I followed with a silent acknowledgment. “I’m still wondering how Israfil knows a lot of things about Teios Kyr.”
“No idea.” I shrugged. “Maybe the Black Sorceress gave a huge villainous monologue before killing them all off. Go watch some movies back at home. They do it all the time.”
The young prince just gazed at me warily. His gray eyes were inquisitive. It tried to poke holes all over me. Studied my facial expression carefully. Then he looked away as soon as my lips slowly curled into a frown.
But before I could say more, the pain shot up by a dozen doses. The next thing I knew was that I fell to the floor. My whole skull started to feel numb. Even my eyesight was a blur. Everyone got surprised and called for my name. Surprisingly, Prince Zein was the first person to come to my aid.
“They need at least ten thousand people for the Soul Bridge Ritual.” I groaned bitterly. My head was still ringing from the madness caused by the ache. All of them looked at me with a troubled face. “How on earth did Israfil knew all of this? No wonder why Teios Kyr checked right away if he has awakened. I think Israfil could seriously screw up their timeline.”
Everyone’s worry for me was quickly thrown aside. Even the prince slightly lost his composure from the initial shock. The glint in his eyes momentarily faded. Then he pulled himself together as he helped me back to my chair.
“That information is indeed disturbing.” Prince Zein lamented. His eyes were thoughtfully mixed with a pang of anxiety. “Sadly, we do not have any conclusive evidence that all of what you said is true. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, but there is no actionable proof you have that your Council can support.”
“He’s right.” Ven confirmed. “There is no way that the High Praetor would give us military support for wherever this attack would be.”
“Maybe they will attack the Capital directly. At the same time, they will send their experimental weapons to test against it. Samael summoned another ally to ensure the benefits and cover a lot of ground.” Prince Zein suggested. “It would be killing two birds with one stone. A showcase of their forces so that the Council of Mir’Quies would take their threat more seriously.”
“It fits.” Morsus noted.
“If that’s the case, then I would have to inform my father about this. I am sorry, my friend. I regret that I would have to break my promised silence about it.” Prince Zein said bitterly. “But if Teios Kyr is making so much effort to make a loud noise over an experiment, then that means they still have more plans to execute. I can promise that my sources about this knowledge will still be dealt with under that oath of confidence.”
“Perfectly understandable, Your Highness.” Ven replied. “The threat is already growing as the weeks pass by. It should have been taken seriously, to begin with. But I thank you for not letting them know of our timely defiance here.”
“We are all imperfect beings.” The young prince bemoaned. “It’s just sad that the adults would rather have qualms among themselves than be vigilant towards the present evil of this time.”
“I still get the feeling that we’re missing something.” I interrupted. The others didn’t say a word. But with their straight face and lack of relief had shown me that they agree with their sentiment. “I am just not convinced.”
“Likewise.” Morsus agreed. His fingers were tapping madly at the edge of the table. “First, Gyroseus has a huge land area. It will take a lot of military force to cover all of the checkpoints. Not to mention, the capital has the most powerful Knights. It’s an experiment, so they are not expecting to win. They just want information.”
The three of us just nodded in his direction.
“Second, there are Rune Mages that are living in the capital. They are not part of the military force, but they are still beneficial in case of emergencies. Most of us know how to erect a powerful protective barrier and set up a mass teleporting spell.” Morsus continued. There was a smile at the corner of his lips. It was a smirk of pride. “Lastly, we need to cross out the prince’s suggestion that they want to make a loud noise. I think the attack on the capital is just a ruse. Experimental weapons can be dispensable. Their real concern is the Soul Bridge. We were not supposed to know how it is done, so it has to happen somewhere far from the distraction.”
“Therefore, they won’t attempt to start the Soul Bridge Ritual in Zidania.” Ven concluded. “They will attack it but just to test the experimental weapons. Their real target is somewhere else.”
“Ergo, another place will be attacked.” Prince Zein added. He looked like he was almost sulking. “The idea that Samael will be bringing a prominent mage within Teios Kyr supports that.”
“The question still stands.” Morsus interrupted. His eyes determined. “Where would they find ten thousand people to offer to this ritual?”
“Let’s try to list down everything they need so we can narrow down our choices.” Prince Zein suggested. Despite being the youngest, I was quite in awe at how he could keep taking charge of the conversation. “The first clue is there should be a lot of people. You don’t see ten thousand people gathered for no reason.”
“Second, no military force should be able to respond quickly and intervene while they are completing the ritual.” Ven was the next to suggest. His blue eyes were intense. “They might do this swiftly and silently.”
“Third, it has to be a smaller space. You mentioned that a huge land area would prove hard for them to fulfill the rituals quickly.” I said. Ven silently nodded at my idea. “A huge stadium or a social gathering should have a lot of people. But I couldn’t think of any place since I am not familiar with your world’s territory.”
A pause among the four of us dawned.
“Fourth, it’s a place that Teios Kyr has been watching for some time.” Morsus added. His breaking of the silence made us feel closer to the conclusion that we were waiting for four. “It’s more strategic if they are familiar with the place.”
“What else?” Ven asked. “We have room for one more suggestion.”
“I think it should also be a place that the Council of Mir’Quies wouldn’t really care about.” Prince Zein proposed. It was the bitter truth. “If they attacked a place that is beyond their scope of power, then retaliation wouldn’t be expected from the horrors that would follow.”
“I don’t think they would attack Fuhrstenvald.” Morsus analyzed. He went on, tapping the edge of the table with his fingers. “Even so, they have sent a representative to be their Seno Legatos. They respect the Council of Mir’Quies. I hate to admit it, but that isolated country still has an ounce of diplomacy.”
“I’m still confused about what those councils are.” I said.
“The Qirian Council is the ruling authority over the Federation of Zidania.” Ven explained. “They are composed of six powerful mages from chosen noble families. Each member or Praetor represents each of the Six Houses. Israfil, Rei, and I are part of Noble Families that they get chosen from.”
“And the Council of Mir’Quies is a small council representing each of the six countries. The Seno Legatos is a title for each of the diplomats that embody the will of each of their country.” Prince Zein added. “I heard stories about your world. I think you could compare them to the United Nations.”
“What are the six countries?” I asked further.
“The Federation of Zidania then the large anarchistic island of Teutesus located at the south composed the Continent of Vuesvarde.” The young prince answered. “My country, the Kingdom of Sevel, and the Qah’livan Kingdom south of ours compose the Continent of Midvarde. Lastly, we are located in the western part of the Empire of Shintotsukawa. Then there is a separate island called the Republic of Fuhrstenvald that composes the Continent of Isvarde. However, there are smaller Protectorates under some of those countries. Any questions?”
“None, Your Highness.” Then I shook my head. “Sorry for the interruption.”
“Don’t be ashamed of having a curious mind.” He replied with a smile. The young prince had really impressed me within a short period. “If only the circumstances weren’t so dire, then I’d love to have you visit our kingdom. I would love to give you a tour and introduce you to our culture. Shall we continue?”
“Based on all the suggestions that we laid on the table, we could cross out all six of the Altimereaean countries.” Morsus said.
“The only alternative left is Earth.” Ven concluded. My fist clenched on its own at the thought of his suggestion. “If they attacked Earth and started killing humans, it wouldn’t be much of a fight. They have no means of defending themselves from magic. It will be a huge massacre.”
“No way.” I gasped. It dawned in my mind. The horror was splattered all over my face. All the suggestions we listed pointed to that one single event. And the sight of a bloody field invaded my imagination. Tears suddenly formed at the corner of my eyes. “They wouldn’t dare!”
“What’s on your mind, my friend?” The young prince asked. His voice was piqued with curiosity and worry. “Do tell.”
I looked at them with dread. “They’re going to attack the Black Daze Fair.”