With the non-aggression pact between the four kingdoms who managed to survive the third great war in place, each kingdom was able to solidify their power.
The last war had left many with a bitter taste in their mouths. After the demigods disappeared, there were many groups of dissatisfied people voicing their dissent.
It was due to the demigods’ habit of always meddling in people's business, and starting trouble. Namely the three great wars that saw the rise and the fall of many kingdoms.
The demigods always demanded rewards for doing simple tasks, expecting large amounts of money from poor farmers. When the reward was not to their liking, they cursed and some even got violent and looted the houses of the people they were supposed to be helping.
There had been a few who had gone on rampages, killing many people for no reason.
That didn't mean they were all bad apples. It was just that the bad apples outshone the demigods who did good deeds, creating a bad reputation for themselves among the common folk.
There were those who said they should look at the silver lining of the wars. There were no demon race villages near the four kingdoms and the monster population had decreased.
Brutus's hatred burned even as the years passed wishing for vengeance on the demigod who had killed Marc. He had become very bitter after Marc's death and was less talkative, brief, and some might even go as far to say rude when speaking to others.
He had become even more protective of Rodger, who was now the only heir left to Brutus. This made him even stricter with Rodger, forcing him to train even harder to make sure he wouldn't end up dying like his brother.
This caused Rodger to hate the demigods even more. Due to being forced to train for long hours, he had less and less free time to do what he wanted.
However, if there was a benefit, it was that Brutus had bought him the best armor and broadsword without caring about the cost. The sword and armor were always checked by the local blacksmith and kept in good shape.
Akira already had a gut feeling telling him that the demigods were not good people, his dislike of them only grew from watching the demigod kill Marc and from the words said during the fight.
He trained just as hard alongside Rodger. Akira had made a personal vow to get stronger so that when he needed to, he could protect those he called friends along with any future family he might have.
Akira also had little to no free time as he had to do odd jobs around the fort when not training. Any free time he had was spent hunting or prospecting items in the forest to sell in the nearby town.
Unlike Rodger, he had to buy all of his equipment with his own money.
He hoarded every copper coin he could get his hands on. It all added up if you kept saving, even if it was only a few small coins at a time.
The constant training and rare free time meant that Akira and Rodger were rarely ever allowed to go to the capital. It was partly also due to the fact that they had moved to the far borders of the kingdom.
It had been six years since Akira and Rodger had been to the capital. Thus it had been a while since they had seen their childhood friends, the princesses. Rodger had been lucky two years ago when he was invited to a party in the capital and allowed to go.
But that all changed when Brutus received a rare letter from the king, ordering him to come to the capital for an important announcement.
It had taken them nearly two weeks to travel to the capital city.
Such a fast speed was thanks to the king creating a new system of large roads that connected all the new cities that had been merged within the new borders of the kingdom, along with being able to get fresh horses along the way.
The new roads also had the side effect of boosting the growth of traveling merchants as they were able to travel much easier and faster. This helped the kingdom grow and prosper, the king did not meddle too much or create outrageous laws. There was only a small tax on the sales merchants made and charges at the gates to sell items in the city.
When they arrived at the castle, a large party was happening.
“Don't get into trouble,” warned Brutus before he left both Akira and Rodger to search for the king.
“Well, where should we go?” asked Rodger.
“I'm not that interested in talking with the nobles at the party. We might be able to see the princesses if we check out the classroom. It has been a while since I last saw them,” said Akira after searching the crowd and finding no trace of the two girls.
Akira and Rodger leisurely walked to the classroom they had spent many months learning during their past visits many years ago.
Akira knocked on the open door before entering the room with Rodger. The two girls inside looked up from the books they were reading when they saw who it was interrupting their lesson.
“Did you miss us?” asked Rodger with a large smile.
“Rodger! Akira! It's good to see you. Yeah, it has been a long time since we last saw each other,” shouted Ruth.
“Hey...Akira. It's been a while,” said Jezebel, her face reddening.
“Uh yeah, nice to see you too,” said Akira, a bit flustered, looking away and scratching behind his ear.
While looking at the two princesses, Akira thought to himself that both Ruth and Jezebel had grown frighteningly beautiful.
“*Sigh*...I guess classes are finished for today,” said the female tutor standing at the front of the room.
“Thank you,” said both the girls, who stood up and bowed to her.
Leaving the classroom, the four childhood friends wandered through the gardens. They still looked the same as they were when Akira had last visited.
They settled down under the shade of the large tree they had used as a meeting point when they were children.
“What’s up with the party?” asked Akira.
“It has been going for over a week now in celebration of the big news that father is supposed to be delivering today,” said Ruth.
“Yeah,” said Jezebel, whose face turned into a frown at the mention of the news.
“You guys really cut it close, getting here so late,” said Ruth.
“We can't help it since we live so far away now,” said Rodger.
They talked for several hours about life on the border, and the new trends and fashion in the capital.
A few hours after they had eaten lunch, Akira noticed that the King was approaching them at a brisk pace with a few elite guards trailing behind him. As he drew closer, the others noticed the king.
“Father, over here!” shouted Ruth.
When the king stopped in front of them, his face was tinged a bright angry red. It made him look like a tomato when you added in his red hair and beard.
His face kept twitching as he tried to keep his smile in place.
“Rodger, your father is looking for the two of you,” said the king briskly.
“Umm...ah... thank you, your majesty, for personally delivering the message. We will go to father at once. It was nice meeting you again, your majesty,” said Rodger as he and Akira both stood and bowed to the king.
“Yes, if you say so.” said the disinterested king.
“It was nice to catch up with you guys. I guess we will see you later hopefully,” said Akira.
As both Rodger and Akira started to leave, the king put his hand up, signaling two of the guards, who blocked Akira from leaving.
“You can go ahead, Rodger. I have something to say to Akira,” said the king.
Rodger gave Akira a worried look, but Akira shook his head, signaling for him not to cause any problems and just go. Rodger sighed and after one last glance at the king, he walked past the guards.
When Rodger could not be seen anymore, the king grabbed Akira's shoulder and yanked him closer so that the king’s face was next to his. His face had lost all pretense of trying to smile and was scowling at Akira.
“I will not allow your kind to be seen with my daughters anymore. Do you understand me?” shouted the king angrily, his breath smelling of alcohol.
“But father, we've known each other since we were children,” protested Ruth.
“You be quiet, girl!” shouted the king while pointing a finger at Ruth.
Turing back to Akira he started to talk again, “It was fine while you were children. Now it is different. Rodger is a noble so it is somewhat bearable. But you are neither a noble, rich nor are you someone famous. I will not allow you near them again and have rumors spring up, causing me problems. There are plans already in place and I will not have you ruin them.”
“But father, I told you I don't want to,” shouted Jezebel.
“Will you two shut up? You are both adults now. It's time you act like it. We can’t have everything the way we want it. Such is life,” shouted the king, who was in such a rage that spit was flying from his mouth.
“Now leave us, and remember this friendly warning. No need to tell anyone else about it,” warned the king, as he loosened his vice-like grip on Akira's shoulder and shoved him towards the garden’s exit.
Akira walked in a daze toward the guest room Rodger and Akira were sharing while in the capital.
Brutus was waiting along with Rodger in front of the room. He seemed to be in no better mood than the king had been.
“Get your stuff, we're leaving the capital,” He coldly said to Akira.
“But why, father? It's been less than half a day since we arrived,” whined Rodger.
“You don't need to know why. Just be at the gates in ten minutes,” said Brutus before he left the room.
Akira and Rodger were able to pack quickly as they had only brought a few items and clothes for the trip to the capital.
They walked to the castle’s stables and found that their horses had already been saddled and were waiting for them. They tied their bags onto the saddles and joined Brutus at the gates to begin their long journey back to the border castle.
A month after they had returned, two letters came from the capital, one addressed to Rodger and the other to Brutus.
It was an invitation to the wedding of Jezebel, who was to be wedded to the firstborn son of the kingdom of Vussia in the far northeast.
The letter caused Brutus to rage for days.
“What's wrong, father? Are we going to the wedding?” asked Rodger when Brutus had calmed down. He didn't know why he was so mad.
“His Majesty broke the promise he made to me after the last war. You were to marry Jezebel. Neither you nor I will go to that sham of a wedding and be mocked. Something has come up for the good of the kingdom. Bah!” shouted Brutus as he got fired up again.
The time for the wedding came and Brutus sent an excuse in the form of a letter, saying he was sorry that he and his son could not make it as they were too busy with the border.
Akira, who didn't know of the events happening in the capital, was leisurely walking through a small thicket of trees in the hilly woods an hour or so ride from the fort.
The woods had a small rocky river that animals normally came to drink from. It was the area he did most of his clumsy hunting with a bow.
Whenever he caught something, he was able to take it back to the border castle where he would be paid for the meat and hide. It was a good way to earn extra silver if he got something large. That was if' he did, more often than not he went back with nothing to show for the time spent hunting.
He was stalking a herd of deer that was currently resting and drinking from the shallow river.
He was getting ready to use his bow as he slowly crept closer to get in range. But before he could, there was a loud shout of surprise.
The commotion startled the deer. They dashed off in the opposite direction of Akira. He cursed his ill luck.
Looking to where the shouts had come from, he noticed someone had fallen down the hill on the opposite side of the river from him. He could see that it was a girl near his age.
Akira began to walk over to the girl who was sitting in the river while holding her leg. As he got closer and could see her more clearly, it dawned on him that this person was different from anyone he could remember seeing before. Mostly because of her wet sky-blue hair and the odd type of clothing she was wearing.
She noticed Akira, who was noisily getting closer to her. She looked frightened and tried to stand and run away, but her injured leg wouldn't allow her to stand, causing her to collapse again with a splash.
“Uh... hey you don't have to worry. I don't plan to harm you,” said Akira slowly.
At his words, the girl stopped trying to stand and stared at him.
”It looks like you are injured. I have a potion that can heal your leg,” said Akira as he held out a small red [Minor health potion].
Akira had started to carry one of them wherever he went after watching the battle of Marc and the demigod.
He didn't want to be without a potion when he needed one. The only problem was the expiration date set by the magic guild. The cost piled up when he had to replace them whenever it expired.
Drinking expired potions could poison you. Luckily he had learned that detail from their tutor in one of their classes a few years ago, otherwise, he might have tried to save some money and just keep the expired portion and drink it when he needed one.
He moved close enough to the girl so that he could gently toss it to her without breaking it.
“Here, catch it,” said Akira as he tossed the potion to the girl.
She fumbled with it, nearly dropping it into the river. With shaky hands, she managed to open the small bottle and drank all of the potion in one gulp. She gagged from the bad taste of the potion.
“Yeah, I don't like the taste either. Although I heard that a [Major health potion] that cost 10 gold each has a nice flavor,” said Akira, trying to make small talk.
The girl's face looked more at ease and her hands stopped shaking as the potion took effect. The visible cuts and wounds on her body began to stop bleeding as they healed.
A short time later, she was able to stand up and walked out of the water onto the opposite side of the river from him.
“What is your name?” she asked in a voice that sounded sleepy.
“A...Akira,” he stuttered.
“I will remember your name,” she said while rubbing one of her eyes, trying to stay awake.
When she finished talking, a cold fog settled around them, blocking Akira's vision.
“What is this?” asked the startled Akira.
He tried to blindly stumble out of the river to escape the fog. He didn't have to worry for long as the fog disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
He turned around to search for the girl but she was nowhere to be found.
“Hey, what's your name?” he shouted but he received no answer.
While still in the river, he turned around and nearly tripped on a large slippery rock, almost falling all the way into the river.
While he was flailing around trying to catch his balance, he noticed a large gleaming rock in the river.
Curious, he walked over to it and tried to pick it up. It was extremely heavy. He exerted more power and it slowly was released from the suction of the muddy riverbed. He dragged it out of the water and tossed it onto the ground.
He was able to inspect it closer now that it was on land. It was a large chunk of iron ore.
“Ja...Jackpot!” shouted Akira, jumping up and down and pumped his fist in victory!
With this amount of ore, he could finally have his own sword made!
He was currently using the blunt training swords until he could afford his own. The problem was the cost of iron wasn't cheap and you had to also add the cost of making the sword.
He opened the leather bag he normally used to carry things he picked up when in the woods and put the iron ore inside.
It barely fit, carrying it out of the woods took him a while until he reached his horse, which was tied to a tree.
The horse was none too pleased with the extra weight.
When Akira returned to the castle, he immediately went to the blacksmith and handed him the iron ore while paying the cost for a sword.
He could now have his own sword!
Thank you for reading this chapter.