The grass on the plains swayed as the wind blew, singing in a whistling tune. To the east, the sun rises staining the clouds amber, like candy coated in honey.
At the center, was me, holding a sword in a middle, with feet apart, knees bent, and hair fluttering.
At the front was my Father, sword in hand, its edge directed at me.
“Why not strike first Amelia?” He said.
“Father, I am no fool,” I reply without moving my gaze.
In a duel, the first to strike has the highest likability to deliver a successful hit. But that’s if and only if your speed far surpasses that of your opponent. In the likelihood of failure, dodging or guarding would be necessary. If all else fails, the result is death.
“So you’ve got the basics down.”
“I did not spend five years only reading books,” I replied.
A brief moment passed between us probing each other to strike first.
“Father, why don’t you take the first?” I spoke.
“Hahaha! Amelia, are you sure about that? This may end in the first strike.”
“Please stop mocking me.”
“Then fi-” Before he finished, he took a step forward and swung his sword diagonally from the left.
Calmly, I took a step back to widen the gap and proceeded to redirect the blade with a hanging right. Afterwards, the sound of metal against metal resounded.
Before the blade of his sword reached my hand, I pulled my left and flicked his sword upward; for an extra push, I brought myself forward. When the blades separated, I turned my hands to slash at his right.
He retracted his sword and defended with a hanging left. Then again, the blades met each other. After the clash, both Father and I moved a step back and returned to a middle guard.
“Not bad, Amelia.” He chuckled with a grin.
“Then Father, why not resign the match.” I smiled.
“Hahaha! What are you talking about? Shouldn’t you be the one resigning?” He answered.
The first clash between us was to gauge both speed and strength. In the battlefield, this would almost always be skipped and immediately begin clashing. In case of speed, we’re somehow similar. In terms of strength, a gulf between us is easily noticeable. Well, considering that I’m just a 14-year-old princess, this much is expected.
In this case, it’s fine to solely rely on speed as long as a prolonged clash is avoided. In case it is prolonged, my hands would get numb and would result in my immediate loss. In addition, my stamina wouldn’t be up to par for a prolonged battle.
“Father, this is not a duel solely on swordsmanship.”
Yes, duels aren’t just based on swordsmanship, but based on the abilities of the competitors. In my case, I can compensate with magic. But of course, mana, like stamina, can also be depleted.
“Then show me!” He shouted as he lunged forward.
“There’s no need to ask!” I replied as I intercepted his downward strike with another hanging to parry the blow.
After I parried, I delivered a diagonal slash from the top, but he twisted his body along with a side step to avoid. After missing, a sword came from below.
I poured mana into the shard at the handle of my sword to activate the magic embedded in the hilt. It’s Body Reinforcement magic that I activated for a slight moment to increase my speed. Then, I twisted my body to the right to avoid the incoming sword.
As I twisted my body, I removed my left hand and re-activated the magic and slashed upwards with my right. He jumped back before the sword reached his body to avoid the blade.
“That was dangerous.” He said as he fixed his stance.
“And you were able to avoid it.” I replied while I fixed my grip.
Usually, Body Reinforcement magic is used to increase both strength and the speed of the caster. The problem is that if it is prolonged, mana would quickly drain. In addition to that, since you’re increasing both strength and speed of the body beyond its original constraint, a penalty would apply. That penalty is a strain on the body parts that moved during Body Reinforcement.
Because of that, I only activate it for a moment and cancel immediately to conserve mana. But there is a problem with this approach. The problem is that during the process, the additional strength is lost. But the gained speed is still maintained. On the bright side, the strain on the body wouldn’t be as significant as the prolonged.
On the other hand, you can conserve the strength of the reinforcement if you activate it before the actual impact, but in this case, the speed would be invalid. Aside from that, activating it before the moment of the impact is extremely difficult, and I don't have the skills yet to handle such delicate technique.
“Let’s begin the final bout.” He said smiling from ear to ear.
I nodded in response.
This time I used the magic to get a head start. I dashed, lowered my body and delivered a slash on his legs. He responded by blocking it with an upward swing. A loud clang resounded after the blades met.
After the hit, I continued to swing it upward. Father stepped back and pulled the sword to defend. After my failure, he delivered a counter swing.
I dodged by bending backward, using my height to my advantage. I then released my left and shot another right. He blocked the swing with the flat and slid his sword towards my hand. I adjusted by pushing my hands forward assisted by magic. The result is a momentary sword lock.
O’ ruler light and darkness I beseech you,
I started chanting by mumbling with my lips.
Father noticed this after the lock was released. And so he swung from his left.
At this moment, a feeling of unease is starting to build within me.
Again, I defended, but this time, Father was delivering slashes from left and right alternately to try to disrupt my chanting. Because of this I was immediately put on guard and was forced to defend.
Light scatter and reform thy shape
After successfully guarding thrice, he stepped forward and thrust his sword. I redirected the blade while side stepping, but father immediately retracted his sword to the left and shifted it into a slash. I bend my knees in response.
As I kept chanting while guarding and dodging, my heartbeat starts to rise.
As darkness creeps, the shadows form
As the sword passed over my head, I jumped back to create distance. He did not miss this chance and delivered an upward slash followed by a downward. I stepped aside and dodged the first then parried the second by hanging.
By will, thy shape shall form
I dashed forward after parrying and closed my sword to the left. Then I threw a thrust, but it failed to hit as he twisted his body. Before I retracted, I poured mana on the handle and activated the second magic circled embedded on the Shard.
After that, a flash of light materialized. It is a magic intended for momentary blindness, but this was enough.
And so I was able to finish chanting.
“!” Father exclaimed.
I then worked my way around his back and closed the sword on his neck.
“It’s… my win.” I said while gasping for breath.
He then looked at the blade at his neck.
“I lost, huh.” He replied with a wry smile. “You did a good job in not mixing the real one with those illusions.”
Yes, he is right. I formed three illusions of a sword thrust, but I didn’t mix in a real sword thrust. Because if I did, there would be a chance that he might locate the real one by instinct or experience. And because of that, all three illusions would feel as if they are all real due to similarities.
“…” I smiled quietly in response.
“Why didn’t you continue the last one?”
“Breaking the crystal would be a waste.”
Both Father and I wear what we call a Sacrificial Crystal. It is a necklace with a crystal hanging at the end. This necklace provides a small barrier against a direct hit to the body once. It shatters itself after activation.
This crystal is a form of magic tool, but the complexity of creating one is at the advanced level. Even I who mainly study magic tools in Academia am still in the middle stages of intermediate magic.
“Father, let’s return. About the terms, let’s talk about it later.”
He nodded in response.
Ugh… I feel light-headed.
Since the last magic used a large amount of mana and adding up the magic I’ve been using throughout the fight, my reserve is running low. This condition is called mana exhaustion. Unlike stamina that is related to the body, mana is co-related to the mind.
Pretty soon, the backlash from body reinforcement would reveal a sharp pang here and there. In addition to that, my hand hurts; he did not even hold back the strength in his strikes.
“Guards! Prepare the horses, we’re returning!” He shouted.
Following his call, the guards came and prepared the horses for us.
We got up our horses and started traveling back to Aves.
I won… but I don’t feel like I did… - I thought as I rode the horse
I won the match but knowing that he only relied on the sword makes it difficult to accept. He did not use any magic, nor did he use his hands and legs to attack.
He’s still going easy on me despite using that much strength in his swings… But at the least, I get to see that I am at least capable of protecting myself.
Later that day, Father and I were sitting in front of Mother with our heads lowered.
When we returned to Aves, Mother was waiting at the east gate along with Marco. When Marco spotted us, he immediately reported. And because of that, we were found. The result is that we’re up for an ‘advice’ by Mother.
Now that I thought of it, I did say tell Marco to look for me. Maybe that was how Mother found out we exited from the east?
“Amelia.” Mother called my name firmly.
“Mother there is a re-”
“Amelia, I know the truth. You need not explain.” Mother said. “Now Auguste, what is this?”
“I-i’m sorry Diane… I did not intend to hide it.”
“Haah… Goodness, if you had informed me, then it would’ve been a lot easier for both you and Amelia.”
Mother said as she tapped her closed fan on her forehead.
“”Eh?”” Both Father and I responded.
Shouldn’t she be mad about Camille?
“It’s fine, both reasons are justified, and I do believe you’ve planned for an excuse.”
Both Father and I looked at each other looking for answers, but what we found were just puzzled expressions.
“In any case, Amelia, I believe you have an excuse for taking them in?”
“Yes, I have, Mother,” I answered.
Originally, it would be Father who would’ve taken them in, but that would be too dubious. So I decided to take them in with an excusable reason.
“Then get dressed, I’ve had them prepared a meeting for you. But your advice would be given later after your rest”
I guess I’m not safe either… I stood from my seat and gave a curtsy. Ugh, the pain…
“You have my heartfelt gratitude Mother,” I said as I left the chamber.
Since Father was left, she probably has an ‘advice’ in store for him.
“Your highness, this way please,” Said the maidservant standing beside the door.
As we passed through the hallway, a painting of Grandmother caught my sight.
Grandmother huh. I thought. I never met her, but Grandfather used to tell me that she’s traveling the world with the butterflies. Anyway...
Led to a chamber with a wardrobe, I was assisted in changing my clothes. After that, I was led to a small guest-chamber. After changing, I was led to a small chamber within the palace. The maidservant knocked before opening the door.
When I entered, “Your Highness,” Camille curtsied.
Both Rick and Fae at her side followed suit.
“How was the travel here?” I asked.
“We have been escorted properly, your Highness.” She said. “But your Highness if I may?”
“You may proceed.” I answered.
Hmm… so Rick and Fae were asked not to talk.
“We wish to know the occasion regarding the call.”
“Ah, yes. Of course, but before that let me confirm one thing.” I said. “I heard that these two is the child of a Knight from Grandfather’s guards. Was it true?”
“Yes, your Highness.” She answered.
“Then Camille along with Rick and Fae, would you please work with me?”
“Pardon your Highness?” Camille was astonished by my remark.
“Your would be husband, he stayed loyal to his oath until death in order to shield me from harm. I wish to take responsibility for the duty he left behind.” I claimed. “I would provide the necessities needed, as well as education. So would you please work with me?”
“B-but your highness, we did not come to Laurel for such reason.”
“Please consider this as my atonement as a survivor of that event.” I bowed my head slightly.
“I-if your Highness wishes so, then we hope that we could be of help.”
“Thank you.” I answered smiling.
Afterward, I asked a maidservant to lead them to the manor. I also left a message to Erina regarding the details and the existence of these three. I’ll have Camille trained as another maidservant at the manor. This is to monitor her and to further satisfy Father’s anxiety due to her original identity.
For Rick and Fae, it wouldn’t be wise to announce them as a prince and princess. Since it would only invite doubt from both the nobility and the citizens. The same is true with Camille’s identity as Father’s mistress.
After the meeting, I asked the servant to guide me to the nearest bed-chamber that I could use in the palace.
Ugh… it hurts…