For the last three years, Brutus had taken the three boys on an annual trip to the capital where they would stay as guests in the royal castle for a month or two. There, they were trained by Silias, while learning in the classroom alongside the princesses, and playing with them during their free time.
They continued to go to the army's annual fall training each year, but they still had yet to participate in clearing any dungeon.
It was now the fourth year that they were traveling to the capital. This year was a little different because Marc was not with them.
He had joined the king's army as a low-ranking knight the year before. In a little under a year, he was promoted to an officer in charge of leading a small company of soldiers as part of the king's elite guard, by recommendation of the king himself.
Brutus had been very proud when he heard the news. Marc was the heir and next in line to take over the fort city when Brutus retired or died.
His achievements in the military would help him later in his political life as a provincial noble.
Rodger was always getting nagged at by his father and the captain who trained everyone at the fort for being lazy and not working as hard as Marc. They didn't say much to Akira as it didn't really matter what he did.
The previous day of the trip was torture for Akira. It was due to the yearly [Growth] everyone went through. The day before your birthday, you would experience extreme tiredness where your muscles would be extremely sore, making it hard to even move for the day, but the next day you would wake up refreshed and feeling even stronger than the year before.
Akira hated his birthday because he had to go through the pain and tiredness, and to make matters worse he was riding on a horse, which made everything hurt even more.
He was just glad it was over now as he was getting back in the saddle of his horse. Rodger galloped over to him and shouted out to Akira with a smile.
“You're finally the same age as me,” said Rodger, who had turned ten a few months before Akira.
“Don't remind me. I want to forget about yesterday,” groaned Akira as they both began to trail after Brutus, who was already on the move talking with their tutor over future lessons.
“You’re such a wuss. It's over now, so you should feel good today. Anyway, father said we're almost at the capital, so we have to be on our best behavior,” chided Rodger.
They reached the capital city before the sun had fully risen to its noonday position.
While riding through the city it seemed that everything was in an uproar. There was more activity happening around them than they had seen in their last visits, with people shouting and others running to and fro.
Rodger and Akira followed Brutus as he led them to a nearby guards’ barracks.
“Wait here, I'll be back shortly,” ordered Brutus as he got off his horse and walked inside the building.
He came back with a troubled face, jumping onto his horse and turned to Akira and Rodger.
“The demigods have come back. It seems they have been urging the king to start another war with the Demon race. We are going to the castle immediately,” commanded Brutus.
When they reached the castle and were permitted to enter, Brutus spoke to them before leaving to meet with the nobles and the king, “Don't go getting into trouble, this isn't the time to be playing around. You are to go to the classroom for your lesson today.”
After leaving their horses in the stable, Akira and Rodger slowly walked to the now familiar classroom.
When they arrived, the two princesses were already inside, busy with their own lesson.
Both Akira and Rodger greeted the princesses with the Beorin kingdom’s noble greeting they had learned the year before, which was a slight bow with their right hand over their heart, then sat down in their regular chairs.
“Something big is going to happen. You heard it too, right? It might be a war! Do you think we'll be allowed to join?” asked Rodger a short time later.
“We might, we have been training with the army,” said Akira.
“You two, stop talking and concentrate on the lesson,” scolded the tutor.
When their classes finished, both princesses joined them under the large tree where they continued their conversation regarding the appearance of the demigods.
“I'm sure father will let us join and fight!” said Rodger with conviction.
“So cool! I wish I could go too. I would show them how to fight for real,” said Ruth, as she jumped up and started punching the air.
“You won’t get hurt, will you?” Jezebel asked Akira.
“I don't think we would be fighting on the front line, and I'm not even sure if I want to fight in such a big war,” said Akira.
“Didn't I tell you earlier to stop being a wuss? If father lets us join then I can tease Marc with how we got to fight at a younger age. Maybe father and the captain will stop nagging me. You have it easy because they don't bother you,” said Rodger.
“They wouldn't nag you so much if you would just go to practice and train normally,” replied Akira.
“Training's no fun,” said Rodger in a huff.
“Yeah, I like doing anything else other than the etiquette classes that mother forces us to go to,” said Ruth.
A few moments later, they were interrupted by a castle servant who came and informed them that they were to go and meet with Brutus in the strategy room.
“See what did I tell you? We’re going to fight,” said Rodger, with a thumbs up and a smile towards Ruth.
Rodger turned and ran off with Akira following behind him. When they reached the strategy room, Rodger burst into the room with Akira entering behind him more quietly.
Brutus was with a handful of other people looking at a map on the round table in the middle of the room. It showed six kingdoms with many red pins placed over certain villages and cities in the kingdom of Beorin.
Brutus looked up from the desk, “Where are your manners? How many time have I told you to enter a room after knocking?” asked Brutus, glaring at the two.
“Are we going to fight, father?” asked Rodger, through gasps while trying to regain his breath from running.
“Put that foolish nonsense out of your head. You’re too young to be on the frontlines and fight. War is not fun and games. Real enemies will be on the battlefield, and they will try to kill you without a second thought, many people will die. So no, you will not be fighting. Instead, you and Akira will be my squire, and if need be you will help with delivering messages,” Brutus scolded Rodger.
“Aww, but...” said the dissatisfied Rodger, before his father walked over to him and started grinding his fist on top of his head.
“Stop complaining. The reason why I called you here was to tell you that and also for you to go to Silias and have him pick out some armor and weapons from the armory. So you're not naked so close to the battlefield. Now hurry and get that finished, we will be leaving tomorrow with the vanguard of the army,” ordered Brutus.
“Okay!” shouted Rodger, who seemed to get a second wind at the mention of receiving a real weapon and armor.
When they reached the training grounds, they found Silias lazily smoking a long pipe while resting in a rocking chair under the shade of a tree.
“Oh, it's you little squirts. Is it that time of year again? You've come for more training have you?” asked Silias.
“No, father told us to come to you, to get armor and weapons ready for tomorrow. We are going to be squires,” said Rodger, proudly puffing out his chest.
“Uh huh, did he now? I won't just hand over weapons and armor to you if you can't handle it properly,” said Silias.
“Don't worry, I’ll make sure he takes care of them,” said Akira, the more responsible of the two.
They were led to the armory, which was inside the elite guards’ barracks in the castle. Silias rummaged around, picking up pieces of armor, looking at Rodger and Akira, then back at the armor, and then throwing it back into the pile until he had two full sets of medium armor.
“These should fit you,” said Silias, as he handed them both a set of chain mail sewed onto the leather armor.
They both pulled the chain-mail over their heads. It weighed a lot, but Akira was still able to move around freely with it on. Rodger was a little slower.
“They fit you well enough. Keep it on for the rest of the day to get used to it. Now onto the weapons,” said Silias as he walked over to the shelves with hundreds of weapons.
He picked out a two-handed longsword and handed it over to Rodger.
“Swing it at the target over there,” said Silias, pointing at a target in the corner of the room.
After watching, he took the sword away and had Rodger try other two-handed swords before he gave a satisfied grunt.
He then started to rummage around, looking for something and found a medium-sized shield and a one-handed sword and had Akira try them out. It took Akira fewer tries to find the right sword and shield.
“Let's go to the training yard, I'll help you get comfortable with your new armor and weapons. If you haven't been slacking off on your training, you both shouldn't have any problem adjusting to them,” said Silias.
They spent the rest of the afternoon doing exercises fully equipped with the new armor and sparring with Silias.
Akira and Rodger were tired after the hard day’s training. They had a light dinner and went to bed as soon as they could, too tired to be excited for the next day.
A few weeks had passed. The army's campaign assisted by demigods had been able to successfully kill or push out the demon race from their villages that had been far away from the ever-expanding kingdom.
Akira and Rodger had not been able to see any of the battles. They could only hear the roar of battle from the far-off distance.
They were stuck sitting in Brutus’ large tent, being watched over by their tutor. They were sometimes forced to do exercises and swing their swords while wearing armor, to keep them busy and out of trouble.
In all the time they had spent with the army, they had only met one demigod. He was immediately noticeable as different from everyone else not by his looks, which were on the average side, but by an odd aura that emitted from his body.
Akira wasn't too impressed by the demigod after seeing him. He was too cocky and treated others poorly.
Rodger thought differently and was amazed and in awe of him.
After being pestered with questions, Brutus had told the curious Rodger that there were around ten or eleven who were constantly fighting alongside the army, with others joining for a few battles and then going off to do other things.
Rodger and Akira were currently training with their swords when the horns of the soldiers guarding the camp blew the signal, notifying everyone in the camp that the army was returning soon.
The two boys waited ten minutes for the captain to reach the tent.
They were able to quickly and quietly help him out of his grimy armor. Rodger brought him some food and drinks.
Meanwhile, Akira started cleaning the armor and sword wiping off the blood, flesh, and dirt that had coated the armor and sword.
Brutus ate the food quickly and washed it down with the ale handed to him by Rodger.
“I'll be in the command tent if you need me,” said Brutus, before leaving in a hurry.
“This is no fun. I want to fight,” complained Rodger, only after Brutus had left.
“Stop complaining and go feed and water your father's horse,” ordered the tutor.
After Akira finished cleaning the sword and armor, he used a whetstone to sharpen the sword. He polished the armor and then oiled both before putting the sword into its scabbard and placing the polished armor on a T shaped post to keep it from getting dirty.
When both Rodger and Akira were finished, they were allowed to rest.
Not more then five minutes had passed when a servant had come into the tent ordering Akira to go to the command tent.
He walked through the familiar neatly ordered tents until he got to the heart of the camp where a large gray tent was erected.
The entrance to the tent was closed and was being guarded by two stern-looking knights in full plate armor. They were familiar with Akira as he was often called to the tent to deliver messages for Brutus.
Akira waited until the guards announced his presence to the officers inside the tent.
“Let him in,” barked the unusually agitated voice of Brutus.
Akira walked through the closed flaps and into the dark tent. The only source of light was a magical green fire dancing in a glass orb that hung from the ceiling of the tent.
Akira glanced at all the officers around the table in the middle of the tent and saw that their faces all had a grim look.
He felt a presence in the tent and noticed a demigod standing in a corner of the tent, who looked like he was trying not to fidget. His eyes were darting around as if searching for an enemy that was lurking in unseen shadows.
“Are you sure it's okay to send the message with this boy?” asked the demigod.
“Yes, he has delivered multiple messages for us already. With the content of this message, the receiver might not believe it if it was delivered to them by someone they do not know,” replied Brutus.
“If you say so,” said the demigod as he licked his lips nervously.
“Akira, get over here,” commanded Brutus. “You are to take this message as fast as you can to Marc. He is a few days behind us with his unit of soldiers. Tell him that he is to stop any tasks he was given and follow the new orders written in this scroll, no matter what. You are to accompany him through the mission until it is completed and you both return. This is urgent, a horse and supplies should be ready for you. Oh, another thing. Don't let Rodger know that you're leaving or he'll start complaining again.”
Akira was handed a rolled-up piece of paper that was sealed by wax and imprinted with Brutus's noble house seal. He saluted the commanders in the tent and then gave a short bow as he backed out of the tent.
He ran quickly to the messenger outpost in the back of the army's mass of tents. After showing the message to the soldier on duty and informing him of the urgency, he was given a horse and a few days’ worth of rations.
Akira left the camp and only stopped when nature called and to feed and water his horse. He slept on his horse instead of stopping and losing time he could spend moving.
The two days passed quickly, passing through the areas he had already passed while he had traveled with the army. When he reached the top of the hill, he saw a small group of tents clustered a distance away from where the main army had been only days before.
He sounded his horn that was given to him to alert allied troops that he was a messenger as he drew closer to the camp. He was only a hundred yards away when two horsemen rode out to meet him.
“Akira, what are you doing here?” asked Marc, one of the horsemen who had come out to meet him.
“Commander Brutus ordered me to deliver this to you as fast as I could. You're to stop whatever your previous orders were and follow the new set of orders. I'm supposed to accompany you back to the army after the new order is finished,” replied Akira, handing over the scroll containing the orders.
Marc tore the wax seal after making sure it was the real thing.
“It must be urgent if father sent you all the way here,” said Marc.
He read the orders and as he finished reading, his face had grown grim. He turned to his second-in-command next to him.
“Order the troops to get ready to move in twenty minutes. We have to hurry,” commanded Marc.
“Why the rush?” asked the second-in-command officer.
“Someone found out that the king has left the capital and is traveling toward the main army. The enemy got the leaked info and have set an ambush on one of the routes. We have to warn the king. We are to join the elite guard that is already with him and safely escort him through a different route to the main army,” replied Marc.
Thanks for reading.