Azhure: With college taking up my time, I also wrote more words per Sub-Chapter than I normally would. I decided to cut the first part and moved it to the next Sub-Chapter. It’s not relevant to the rest of it, nor the entire chapter in that manner. I’ll leave the last bit to give you an idea.
Azhure: …Is that all you got to say?
Voice: Dunno! ‘Sides, you’re way behind the me quota lately!
“You know, I still can’t help but ask, what’s with ‘master’ and ‘Master’ without and with capital letters? We don’t even write capital letters on prince, princess, nor any other honorifics and such!” Ronald ranted. “Heck not even empire and kingdom!”
“Eh, I don’t know.” Joshua shrugged. “Maybe the First Guardians abusing their power again? They did insist the whole ‘Master’ thing.”
Year 1397 in Manegia
A month after that fateful breakfast, a carriage, bearing the Illyer crest, strolled across the countryside with the view of the great pond of Kirash to the side. The middle-aged coachman dutifully steered the horses pulling it while a dozen knights in light armor and on horseback encircled the carriage.
“My lord.” The carriage driver looked back to the passengers. “We will arrive at the city in about two hours.”
“Thank you, Liam,” the duke of Illyer, Allister, said. “I hope this travel hasn’t been weary for you, my friend.”
“Think nothing of it, my lord. My bones are still strong, I can see myself driving for your future grandchildren too.”
“I see,” Allister chuckled at the driver’s response. “I will look forward to it.”
“Go, Liam, go.” Beside him, Neptune, the bald little blue child that was the intermediate spirit Allister named, softly cheered for the old driver, pumping his little fist.
Looking back into the carriage, the duke focused his attention on the only other passenger.
Wearing a plain, but beautiful blue dress with a white sunhat resting on her lap, his eldest daughter, Irene, inherited the beauty of his wife, her mother, Marisa. In fact, getting a good look at her, his daughter was the spitting image of her during their younger days.
“Are you alright, Irene?” he spoke to his daughter. “This is your first time traveling, I hope it hasn’t left you weary.”
Ever since that breakfast, Allister thought that he really needed to let his daughters out. Succession war or not, he has isolated them for far too long. However, because of the succession war with himself being the only obstacle in prince Van’s path, his daughters will naturally be targeted without relent.
“You need to know what it means to be a duchess by knowing the people you will rule over in your land,” Allister said. “Furthermore, Layla is with you. With Neptune as well, we will be safe even if we are attacked.”
That was his excuse to give his eldest daughter her first visit to a nearby town under the pretense of learning how to interact with her subjects as the future duchess of Illyer. This excuse, of course, doesn’t extend to his youngest daughter, especially when she’s prince Albert’s fiancee and has not named a spirit, making her more of a target.
“No, father,” Irene responded. “In fact, I feel quite exhilarated. The air is refreshing and the townspeople are very kind. I never knew the countryside can be so nice.”
“And it’s getting stuffy cooped up in the mansion anyway!” Sitting beside Irene was Layla, the greater spirit candidate Irene named, who lazily stretched out her petite arms with the bottom of her hair touching the seat.
“I see,” Allister smiled softly. “That is a relief.”
“Although, to be honest, I feel like something bad is about to happen.” Irene looked out to the window, where their knights on horseback vigilantly guarding them against any threats. “But we are coming home pretty soon, so I am sure it is just my feeling.”
She wasn’t wrong to have her worries. Again, since Allister was the only one left to stand in prince Van’s way, and the second prince really does can’t go around him, the second prince allocated all of his resources to remove him, something the duke doesn’t want to tell outright to his daughter.
So even though this outing was kept secret, which the duke was confident that it was, and rather unannounced, it wouldn’t be out of place for prince Van to station his men to attack him at every opportunity – which again was something Irene shouldn’t be burden with by knowing, though she may already have an inkling about it.
“I do hope so,” and so, this was the duke’s only response. “Well, we have our alliance with Ronald Bell and the Court Wizards, they said that they will keep us safe.”
“Oh?” Irene perked up, catching interest in what her father said.
“Y-Yeah… I’mma go out on a stroll,” Layla stuttered as she basically phased out of the carriage.
“Ah, ah… M-Me too!” Neptune flustered, following after the thirteen-year-old looking spirit.
Even after that breakfast where the greater water spirit herself approved it, the two named spirits were still uncomfortable at the mention of the Court Wizards. Decades of fear don’t wash away easily they supposed.
Resigning to that fact, the two namers moved on and Irene said, “Well, speaking of Court Wizards, we have not seen mister Bell and mister Ruze since that breakfast. Did they not promise to protect us, or at least their colleagues in their place?”
“Well, I did inform them through Arnald that we are traveling,” Allister noted. “I believe they do not want to be seen guarding us and did so from the distance. That is probably why our ride has been smooth thus far.”
After all, for all the second prince knew, Allister’s only ally was the Bell Conglomerate, some wealthy merchant in his city which gave him nothing more than financial support and it would be best to keep it that way. Besides, the Otherworldly Court, the organization the Bell and Conglomerate was under, preferred to operate in the background according to Ronald.
However, it would mean that Ronald, Joshua, and more of their Court Wizards must be disposing of every goon sent by prince Van as they speak in the most swift and efficient manner – he’s certainly not going to tell that to his daughter.
“I see.” And thank the spirits his daughter did not pry further. “They are quite interesting, mister Bell, mister Ruze, and the Court Wizards. I am curious of their spirit arts, or I guess just their arts.”
“Yes, their arts does seem to come from themselves without the need of a request,” Allister mused. “Or maybe they spoke it in their mind?”
“Oh, that is right! Beyond what mister Bell and mister Ruze shown in that breakfast, mister Ruze did save you from the assassin. How was it?” Irene asked.
“Ah… unfortunately, it happened so fast, I did not grasp a good look of him in action,” Allister quickly said.
“Oh, that is too bad,” Irene relented.
It was a lie, however, as Allister did have a firsthand account from his discussion with the head of his knights, Oswald, who was leading his security detail in front of Liam right now, as the Spirit Knight had fought alongside Ronald Bell during the rescue of the orphanage and village of Willow, the maid who was forced to cooperate with the assassins. A discussion he does not want to share with his daughter.
“I would say how they fight looked deceptively and underwhelmingly powerful,” Oswald said. “Whilst their… lack of intent unnerved me, my lord.”
“Hm?” Allister raised an eyebrow “How so?”
“For one, lord Bell seems to lose all of his emotions the moment we start the clash with those vagrants,” the Spirit Knight said for starters. “A far cry from how they casually interacted with us and the people in front of those water illusion arts when we briefly ventured to their world to transit to miss Willow’s village.”
“Yes, I am aware of that when Ruze saved me from the assassin,” Allister nodded, shuddering at that thought. “They do feel like lifeless dolls with the sole purpose of completing the command they were given when they turned to that stance.”
“I see.” Oswald continued, “well when I say they were deceptively and underwhelming powerful, I meant how they use their… arts.”
“Throughout the battle, lord Bell had mostly used small fireball arts while knocking enemies who got close to him with the rear of his dagger,” Oswald said. “The only time he used a different art was against a group of three where he unleashed a small breath of fire like that of a cursed fire dragon the greater fire spirit fought.
“Lord Bell’s arts may look weak to the average observer, which I fell for at first glance. But, as we fought, I soon realize that his arts were more with efficiency in mind. Other than the fire breath in order to take out multiple enemies, he only shoots when he knows he will not miss. And while each the fireball were smaller than we would with our spirit arts, it was because it does not need to be any larger to incapacitate the adversary in the right spot.”
“In other words, Ronald made sure no arts were wasted nor used more than necessary to defeat the enemy,” Allister concluded, living up to his reputation as a war hero. “And you imply that he did so to near perfection?”
“Yes, frighteningly so for a young man such as him,” Oswald grimaced. “However, lord Bell’s dagger proficiency was really amateurish, especially when he tries to subdue instead of killing. He likely picked it up only recently but that’s not important.”
“Rather, it’s his fire breath art which proves that he can perform stronger arts yet he chose to use weaker arts as it was ‘enough,'” Allister narrowed his eyes. “Which means that he was holding back and is much stronger than he leads to be.”
“With that high level of control, I believe he has every right to be,” Oswald remarked. “I shudder to think how powerful he really is.”
‘Well, Layla claimed his peers had fought almost equally with the greater water spirit,’ Allister thought which was not a can of worms to open to the head knight at the moment. “And we can assume the same for his colleagues like Ruze,” he said instead. “I have seen it firsthand, after all,” referring to Joshua Ruze saving his life from the assassin although it happened really fast.
However, the duke was not a war hero for nothing.
“Yes,” Oswald nodded. “And not to mention how the very few spirit art users among the vagrants found their spirit art requests denied with lord Bell’s presence.”
‘Because the spirits were irrationally frightened of him, the Court Wizards,’ Allister thought, another thing he was not willing to discuss with his head knight right now.
“I know this because other brigands we fought had their requests granted, so it was not your favor extending to his mere vassals unless you are with us, lord Illyer,” the Spirit Knight continued. “While my spirit arts felt weaker as if the spirits knew that lord Bell was on our side yet they still trembled while performing my arts.”
“Anyway,” Irene said, changing the subject. “I heard Clint and Alexa are dating, is that true?” she asked, referring to the two knights who have shifts in guarding the front gates to the Illyer mansion.
Allister simply looked outside the carriage window to see those two knights riding on horses, with Clint in front of Alexa as the latter fidgeted between looking out for brigands and staring at the former’s back while hiding her fluster.
“…Hm, I suppose they-”
“Lord Allister! Lord Allister! There’s danger!”
Allister, however, was interrupted by an intermediate spirit Neptune phasing into the carriage at such speed that he almost tackled the duke. Then, the greater spirit candidate Layla followed in with sheer panic on her face as she wrapped her blue arms to Irene’s neck.
“Layla!? What is hap-”
“Bandits!” Layla cried, cutting her namer off. “Lot’s of them carrying fire!”
Suddenly, there was a sound of an explosion which grind the carriage to a sudden halt, shaking the passengers inside along while the knights outside rein in their spooked horses untrained to be unfazed at such noise.
“A-Are you alright, Irene?” Allister hunched towards his daughter, grabbing her hand she nearly fell forward.
“Y-Yes, I am,” his daughter replied, letting go of her father’s hand.
“And you two!?” he looked at the spirits next. Just as spirits can choose to let themselves be seen or not, they can also choose to be incorporeal or not, but usually, they only do it to go through objects and become corporeal afterwards.
“We’re fine!” Layla cried. “But-”
“Bad guys!” Neptune screamed.
Before inquiring the panicking spirits further, Allister noticed a flickering orange coming from the window as the air around him was getting hotter.
“By the spirits…” he gasped as he looked out to the window.
A sea of flames engulfed the grassy plains as Oswald shouted orders to his knights in preparation to clash against the figures armed with weapons who lept out of the fire as if they were cursed fire dragons.
- Spiri Raia Dragon (Cursed Dragon) Species Module
Voice: Really!? Dragons!?
Azhure: What else am I supposed to add? Flying sharks?