Due to the kidnapping the incident, everyone was confined to staying inside the castle. Most of their time was either spent training, in class or watching the nobles debate with each other in the great hall. There was also the rare chance to freely play in the castle’s gardens.
Akira, Rodger, Marc, along with the two princesses, were sitting in a private box overlooking the great hall. Earlier in the morning, the king had held an open court for all citizens in the capital city.
The open court allowed the common folk to bring their grievances to the king, and it required a judge to give a verdict.
Not just anyone could bring their cases in front of the king, if that was the case then he would be swamped with never-ending disputes.
Most of the cases were handled by judges appointed by the king. The cases he did rule over were cases that interested him.
As such, there were only a few cases in today's open court, which were swiftly taken care of.
Half of the people leaving the great hall were furiously and unhappy, when the king had ruled against them. The other half were smiling and singing the king’s praises of how smart and just he was.
Akira and the others since then had been watching the imperial capital and provincial nobles debate for most of the morning as part of their class for today, learning more about local politics, and more importantly, the politics of other kingdoms.
Capital city knights tended to be more cunning and slippery with their words when they practiced politics, hoping to get into the king’s good graces and get promoted. While the provincial nobles were away from the capital most of the year, which caused them to be more focused on running their cities and villages and less on the political intrigue of the capital.
The current subject being debated between the imperial capital and provincial nobles was over whether or not to raise taxes.
“We need to increase the tax! The costs of running the government is increasing,” shouted the leading imperial capital noble. He was a skinny man who wore an odd hairstyle that was supposed to be the latest fad in the capital city.
“What you need to do is start spending the money more wisely and stop wasting the tax taken from us on stupid things. Are you trying to turn our country into a hellhole like Vussia?” asked Brutus, who was the leader of the provincial noble party.
“You just don't want to hand over anymore of your gold crowns. You're greedy, and want to horde it all for yourself.”
There were shouts of agreements from the imperial nobles’ side of the hall, while boos were shouted from the provincial nobles’ side.
“Unlike you, I know how to use the money I make. You raising taxes does nothing but hurt the villagers under my charge. Our country is doing just fine! The facts show that the average person makes 12 gold crowns a year compared to those who live in Vussia who make the equivalent of 6 gold crowns, which is barely enough to live on.”
“So what's your point? You said it yourself, they have enough money to live. I say we need to be more like the kingdom of Vussia and raise tax even more. Then we will have more money to spend.”
“My point is that it's just enough to live but that is no way to live life. The common folk in our country have double what the vussians have yearly, allowing them to save and spend more money on things they want, which helps business grow. Which means more taxes.
Your point on being like the nobles of Vussia I disagree with you wholeheartedly, because the nobles of Vussia keep raising the taxes that they say are for the benefit of the people they rule over, but for some odd reason the common folk are even worse off and never see a benefit from the increase.”
After that the nobles started shouting at each other, arguing over this and that. It turned into a mess.
“Man this is boring,” Ruth said as she yawned
“Quiet!” shouted the king.
The nobles quit arguing and their attention was drawn to the King after he hit his chair’s armrest with his fist.
“That's enough for today, it is already noon. Let us resume the debate some other time,” said the king in a booming voice.
“We're free!” shouted Rodger.
“No, you're not. You boys are to go to the training grounds. The princesses are to head to your tutor for your etiquette class,” said the tutor, pouring cold water on their happiness.
With a moan, the boys and girls split up and went their separate ways.
When the boys reached the training grounds, instead of training with the sword, they were told to sit down and listen.
They ate the lunch that silias had provided. After finishing lunch, most of the afternoon, they were forced to listen to a lecture by Silias, on what it meant to be a noble and a knight.
“Swearing an oath is very sacred. Those who break it are shunned and treated with scorn. The smaller offenses will result in a demotion for an action or inaction that violates the oath. The more serious offenses are handled like the recent incident of nobles and knights who betrayed their oaths.
Well, that sums up the lesson. Don't forget it. You can have the rest of the time until dinner to do as you like,” said Silias.
After leaving the training grounds, they were able to meet with the princesses again, who had just been let out of their etiquette class.
“Let’s go to the gardens,” said Ruth.
They took off running towards the gardens on Ruth’s orders. As they ran she was deciding, what game they would play.
Marc, as usual, had stayed behind at the training grounds to practice even more.
While they were running through one of the Royal gardens, they met the king and queen, who were on a leisurely walk.
“Ah you girls are always out playing with the boys, you make mother worry what might happen,” said the queen jokingly.
“Okay,” replied Ruth, not paying any attention to her mother's words as the group ran past them.
“Don't get into trouble,” the queen shouted after the children.
The first game that Ruth had picked to play was tag. They played it for a short while until everyone was tired of running around, and decided to rest at the large oak tree they normally played other games, under its shade.
The sun had set. The pathway of the gardens was now lit by magic lanterns, which were casting a green glow.
“Let's play hide and seek,” Ruth suggested only after a few minutes of rest.
After they all agreed, Ruth held out four sticks in her hand. Everyone picked one to see who drew the short stick. Whoever did would be the seeker.
It was Jezebel who drew the shortest stick.
“Make sure you count to 100,” shouted Ruth, as she ran away.
Akira and Rodger, both ran off in opposite directions, looking for a place to hide that they hadn't used in their other games.
'Where am I supposed to hide?’ Akira thought to himself while panicking when he heard Jezebel had almost counted to 100.
After his eyes landed on some large bushes surrounding a statue, he hurriedly crawled into one of the bushes to hide under them.
There was movement from the bush next to him, which startled him.
“What are you doing here? This is my hiding spot,” said Rodger.
“Ready or not here I come,” shouted Jezebel.
“Can't move now,” said Akira.
“It's your fault if we both get caught,” said Rodger.
After a few minutes of waiting, Jezebel walked by, searching for them. She came close to the bushes but continued walking past.
Both Akira and Rodger let out sighs.
In the distance, Akira could hear multiple people talking. They were coming this way.
“Rodger, someone's coming,” said Akira in a hushed voice.
“What? I can't hear anyone,“ said Rodger in a voice loud enough to give away their position.
“Shh, there, getting closer,” Akira hushed Rodger.
He could hear three different voices in the distance, but couldn't tell who they belonged to.
Akira listened intently, trying to figure out who it was. The voices moved a little closer and then stopped.
The group was not on the garden path, so they were shrouded in darkness, but for a moment the moonlight was able to escape the prison of the clouds and shine down on them.
It was the king, Silias, and Brutus who were talking.
Akira focused his attention on listening again. He could only get bits and pieces of the conversation.
“No problem. Just have to...”
“Everything is normal during...”
“Good … I... goodnight.”
One of the three left the other two, that person was most likely the king. Brutus and Silias started walking towards the statue while still taking.
“Ah! I hear someone now,” said Rodger.
Again Akira shushed him.
“So, how have they been doing in the last month of training?” asked Brutus.
“They all show great promise. Although it's a shame I was unable to detect any hint of a [Skill] in any of them. Granted it's a one in 50,000 chance for someone to be born with a [Skill] or so the Magic guild says.
Still, that doesn't mean they have no talent. Marc is a true prodigy, his handling of the sword is superb along with his footwork. He has trained very hard and even more so after learning the art of dual wielding. He puts in the most work out of the three and it shows. He would make any father proud.
Rodger, he uses brute force for most of his attacks. Although he has the fire and passion for swordplay, he is still young and with youth there are problems. He tends to go into a frenzy and ignores all other things around him. If he can fix that, and continue on his current training. Then he will be a great two-handed swordsman.
Lastly, Akira has trained diligently in the use of a shield and sword. He will make a fine frontline knight if he continues to train properly,” said Silias.
“Didn't Jezebel say the boys were supposed to still be out here playing? If you will excuse me, I have other businesses to take care of. So I'll leave it to you to sort them out and get them back to their rooms,” said Brutus, as the two of them passed by the bushes hiding Akira and Rodger.
“Jeez, why does he have to tell father that, and make such a big deal about that,” huffed Rodger after they were gone, “it was only that one time.”
It was more than once. It was, in fact, a bad habit of Rodger’s. Whenever he had to do something or he seriously dueled Marc and Akira, he always focused on the task single-mindedly and ignoring everything else.
“Now's not the time to be complaining. Let's get back to our room before we get in trouble,” hissed Akira.
They quietly crawled out of the bushes and hurriedly took off their shoes to run silently barefoot back to their room.
When they returned to their room they took off their dirty clothes and threw them into the basket in the corner of the room.
They hurriedly wiped themselves down with a washcloth that a servant had placed next to a basin of water, which had gone cold. They then changed into their bedclothes.
After eating the dinner that was left for them, two large sandwiches made out of a miniature loaf of bread, with melted cheese and ham stuffed inside. They hopped into their own beds and blew out the burning candles.
It wasn’t a second too soon as the door opened just then. Silias looked at both their beds, checking to see if they were in their room. Seeing that they were, he quietly closed the door.
“That was close,” whispered Rodger.
Akira didn't reply and just let out a deep breath he had been holding.
Minutes later, they heard repeated quiet knocks coming from the door.
Akira got out of bed and opened the door to find the two princesses standing in the hallway, both in their sleeping gowns.
“What are you guys doing here?” asked Akira.
“I heard from father that you will be leaving tomorrow, so I decided that we will have a sleepover tonight,” said Ruth.
Jezebel, who was standing next to her, nodded her head in agreement.
“I don't mind but we only have the two beds,” said Rodger, who was sitting up in his bed.
“That's okay. I can share yours and Jezebel can share Akira's bed,” replied Ruth.
“If you guys are okay with that, that's fine,” Akira agreed.
They talked late into the night, falling asleep early the next morning.
The maids and servants, who upon noticing the missing princesses, were tearing the castle apart, trying to find them, while the princesses slept peacefully in the boy’s room.
Thank you for reading.