“...” I stood before a White-tail hatchling.
It was round, black, and fluffy. The sharp jaws peeking from the fluff ball seemed out of place, but it brought a sense of ease in my mind. Maybe I was nostalgic about its appearance. However, despite that feeling, I heaved a sigh. “I can’t believe its name was wasted.”
“Says the one who gave the same name.”
Of course, as naturally as possible, I ignored Kanna’s remarks. I truly believe it was not me who gave such a unique name. That is the truth and would always be the truth.
“But why a chicken coop?” I crossed my arms and wondered.
“Maybe Rick and Fae thought it would act like one? They named it Birby after all. The second, that is. So I don’t think the idea of connecting a bird to a chicken would be far from what they actually thought.”
“Probably.” I nodded. “Anyway, that’s enough rest.”
After the meeting at the council, Ark, Kanna, and I returned to the lodge. Afterward, I had a short briefing with Ark. He informed me of the recent developments of the distillery and the progress of interacting with the Tribe. So far, the progress was satisfactory. And other than the problems mentioned in the council, there did not seem to be any other problems concerning my servants.
Since I knew that the progress went well, I ordered Ark to write a letter addressed to Mother. The content was a request for at least four citizens who are willing to live in the Tribe under Ark’s supervision. Maybe this time, a blacksmith, a tailor, a historian, and an alchemist would suffice.
However, since Garfin and the others have yet to arrive, Kanna and I were left with nothing to do but rest. While resting, I remembered the White-tail which was supposed to be gifted to me. Which was why I ended up going to the yard of the lodge and visited the coop.
“Hmm… Lia, now that I think about it, it’s been a while since we’ve put off your study regarding the Tribe’s history. As well as languages.”
“True, but not now. In the meantime, let’s return to the clearing.”
“Just a quick round in Alabaster.”
Like I said, I left the Tribe with Kanna. This time around, I was the one holding onto Birby’s reins.
“It’s been a while since.” I rested my hands between my thighs while clutching the reins.
“Birby sure is delighted.”
Birby growled in response.
I reared Birby towards the east, shuffling over and under the low-level clouds.
“It really looks like a different place in fall.” It was the first time I flew over Alabaster in fall. I never expected that the view would be far different from viewing it from below. Nevertheless, I roamed my eyes in search of a specific area.
“It’s over there, north-east of us.” Kanna pointed to a lake. It was the same lake I had my first training with Celes.
Promptly, I led Birby to the near the edge and circled around twice.
“This is difficult.” I knitted my brows. Although it was not obvious at a glance, there were various bulges near the edge of the lake. They were the same beast that disabled me in the past, Snapmaws.
“They are aggressive. They’ll try their hands even on wyverns so we can’t get too close to them.”
“How about the waterfall upstream?” I asked. “I think there’s enough space to land there.”
Kanna shook her head. “We can’t. In this season, the Queen Phiptere returns to its nest to copulate with the males. Due to that, the male Phipteres would be aggressive in competing. Although they are easy to deal with, their number would be overwhelming. The Queen might even come out of its nest to pursue us.”
“Then what do we do?”
“Simple.” Kanna chuckled. “Emergency landing.”
Kanna reached her through my sides and grabbed the reins.
“This might be a bit harsh, but let’s do it!” Kanna declared. “Birby! let’s go!”
“...” Knowing how outrageous Kanna could be, I kept quiet and prepared myself.
Birby accelerated towards the direction of the waterfall. Gradually, Birby’s altitude lessened up until we were flying at about a meter above the canopy of trees.
At about a fourth of the river before we reached the waterfall, Kanna shouted. “Now!”
Birby began to tilt to the side. In just a second, I felt my rear separating from the saddle. However, unlike the first time I rode with Kanna, where I was locked in place on the saddle with ropes, I felt myself separating from the saddle further and further.
What is the sense of nostalgia?
When I looked up, the surface of the river closed in. Shortly, followed by a splash, my body was submerged.
Wooden swords clashed in the distance. Sand clung to iron greaves. Voices and sweat drowned the surroundings.
“So Her Highness left huh,” Maize muttered. He stood with his hands rested on the pommel of a drawn sword.
Maize was overlooking the training of his men. It has been a while since he returned to the Duchy. And doing so, he made the guards of the Duchy—all under Amelia’s personal army—to train in daily shifts.
Maize sniffled a laugh. “I was even looking forward to it.”
Amelia promised to have a spar with Maize as soon as they returned to the Duchy. But as it is, Amelia failed to comply. Obviously, Maize understood that Amelia had more than just a sword practice to attend to. After all, she was a Royal. A Royal who refused to indulge. But in the case of Maize, he was excited. He was eager to see what Amelia was capable of.
“Barriers as footholds huh.” It was not a common practice in using barriers. But from how Maize saw Amelia used it, the method was viable for battle. “It might be a good idea, but not for something on a large scale.”
Maize assessed how Amelia used the barrier. Although it seemed impractical to open fields, where enemy archers could freely target the user, it was viable for closed spaces.
“But still, it won’t work against anyone who knew the trick.”
Maize imagined how he would obstruct Amelia whenever she used the barriers as footholds. The idea he had in mind was simple. Fight Barrier with Barrier. However, rather than using it as a foothold, he thought of using the barrier as a wall. As an obstruction to impede or trip Amelia during, before, or after she jumps.
Maize closed his eyes.
But barriers to impede huh.
Maize then ordered a guard to fetch him a shield with an embedded shard. When he was about to ask for training opponent, Kasta arrived.
“Captain, it’s nice to see you’ve returned.” Kasta approached while grinning. Following closely behind him was Hilda and her brother Kyle.
“Oh, Kasta, it has been a while.” Maize smiled
Kyle was admiring the guards in training, while Hilda looked up to Maize. She made sure to hold Kyle’s hands so we would not run around and do as he pleased.
“Nice to me you uhm… Sir Maize?” Hilda bowed her head.
“Maize it is. And you are?”
“Hilda. Just Hilda. And this is my brother, Kyle” A strained smile emerged on Hilda’s face.
Maize chuckled. “There’s no need to be nervous. There aren’t any formalities in this hall.”
Kasta and Maize exchanged a few words afterwards. Maize commended Hilda for aiding Kasta, but Hilda answered that she was the one who was aided.
A few meters away from Hilda and Kyle, Maize spoke to Kasta. “Kasta, if you wanted, I can place you under the Duchy’s patrol groups.”
“… Sir, why the sudden offer?” Kasta was puzzled.
“It seemed that child took a liking to you. And from what I heard, her Mother was widowed, right? This might be your chance to start a family of your own. Or maybe adopt that family into your house. You needed someone to manage the empty land you were rewarded, weren’t you?”
“Sir that’s...” Kasta scratched his cheek with a wry smile.
It was true. Kasta, as a knight under Amelia, had a small land of his own. However, since he did not know anything regarding land management, it was left empty. Though small his land was, it has enough space for a small village to fit in.
In addition, due to his willingness to spread awareness of the church’s practices, he had no family. And as a knight who often roams around, the girls he was closest with are only the guild receptionists and tavern waitresses. Basically, he had never thought of having a family of his own.
After Kasta mulled over his choices, he answered, “I’ll think about it. If ever I did decide to take Hilda under my wing, I’ll have to speak with her Mother.”
Maize tapped on Kasta’s shoulder with a smile. “Yeah, think about it first. But don’t let that child hanging. I’m sure she at least wanted to meet you now and then. You are, after all, her savior.”
Kasta sighed. “I guess you’re right.”
“Now, that aside, let’s have a spar.” Maize grinned. “I have something I wanted to test out.”
It did not take long before Kasta and Maize stood against each other. Both were using a sword and a shield. However, unlikely of a usual training, they were using steel swords rather than wooden ones.
“P-please be careful.” Hilda was worrying at the side.
“Oooh!” Kyle, on the other hand, was eager to watch from start to end.
Then it began.
Kasta dashed then lunged at Maize with a thrust. In return, maize side-stepped. As soon as he successfully dodged Kasta’s thrust, he jumped backward. He was just in time before Kasta swiped to the side after the fake thrust.
“Eager to display a good show huh.” Maize grinned.
Kasta smiled. “Can’t break their expectation.”
The battle continued. This time, Maize took the initiative. With his shield up front, he delivered a diagonal slash. Kasta blocked and returned a similar strike. One after the other, Kasta and Maize exchanged blows. However, each blow either missed or was blocked.
“That’s enough show for the kids.”
Maize pushed forward with his shield, bashing against Kasta’s. The bash left Kasta with a sore arm, but he endured. It was not something he could not handle. And so, when his shield was bashed to the side—leaving him open—he slashed with his sword coming from below. He was intending to ward off Maize. However, something unusual happened.
“What?!” His arm stopped. His elbow struck something hard and destroyed his momentum.
“So it worked.” Maize pointed the tip of his sword to Kasta’s neck with a wide smile.
Kasta realized his loss, and for a moment he observed the object that obstructed his movements.
It was indeed a barrier. Maize placed a barrier where Kasta’s elbow was supposed to move into. It was a simple trick, but such a simple trick is life-threatening. Especially to those who have yet to know such a style of fighting.
“The other knights of the Nobles might look at it as something dirty.” Maize laughed. “But this will be helpful. We can be unstoppable in small operations whenever we use this.”
Kasta was still bewildered. He never knew that a Barrier, which was supposed to protect could be used for combat.
“The idea came from Her Highness’s unusual use of Stone Mold.” Maize declared “As well as using barriers as footholds.”
Kasta chuckled. “Yeah, using Stone Mold to trip opponents, is quite an unusual practice.”
“Nevertheless, it’s effective.”
“Now then.” Maize roamed his eyes towards the crowd that watched his and Kasta’s fight. “Listen, men! You have a rough day ahead! Now get those legs moving and assemble!”
And so it began, a rather unusual form of combat.
“A meeting with a Hero?” Maxwell knitted his brows. “Right now?”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Lester, Maxwell’s butler, bowed. “Hero Charles made his way here in Spere and asked for a meeting with you. Currently, Her Highness Clarissa is having a conversation with him in the guest chamber.”
“I see.” Maxwell nodded. As soon as he confirmed the events with Alex and Alessia—and made a few arrangements for the next priest in Sardon—he returned to Spere. “Well, for now, please inform my sister that I’ll arrive shortly.”
Lester nodded and walked opposite the direction of Maxwell.
Charles huh. I was expecting to see Clark rather than him. But isn’t this too soon? If I remember, they still have a training before they are allowed to leave the premises of Issenheim.
Maxwell tried to guess what was in Charles’s mind.
But if he’s here, then he was able to receive permission from his two instructors?
Even after Maxwell arrived in his chamber, he kept thinking of possibilities as to why Charles immediately headed towards Brent instead of the front lines.
Could it be that priestess? No, there isn’t any information related to her, but she’s the most suspicious as of now. Disregarding that, he probably passed his test ahead of the other two.
Maxwell sighed. “Really, this is quite a difficult task, Amelia.” Then he chuckled. “But I can’t back down now that you promised.” Maxwell tapped his cheeks with the palm of his hands. “Now then, time to pull as much information I can.”