Chapter Two: Rebirth

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{Excerpt}

James T. Earl passed away at the age of 27 in the hospital, on July 14, 2020. He lost his brave and long battle with cancer, but not without leaving his mark on this world. He is survived by Aunt, Mary Wilson, his cousins, Karen, Talon, Madison, his grandparents Jeanette and Dougie. 

He will be remembered by his family, friends and colleagues for his somewhat childish obsession with Japanese animations and 2D girls with big boobs(Laughs). His passion for wargaming, DIY projects and polemology, and his rather amusingly morbid preference for dark humour will also not be forgotten.

We know James is now with his parents, Joan and Mia Earl and is loved here on earth as well as in heaven.

A private funeral service was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Sunday, August 16, 2020, and a memorial service is planned for a later date.

Please do not send flowers. Remembrances may be made to…”  


Excerpt from James Earl’s Obituary, written and published by his surviving maternal aunt, Mary Wilson, in XXXX, on the 30th of July, 2020.

{END}

11.13.223 S.T.

Windy Fir Woodlands, Alvia province,

North of Greystones, the Capital.

Algrim

Death. A splatter of crimson, a raising blade, and a man’s head flew, drawing a bloody arc through the air.

A headless body fell, blood pooling quickly underneath, soaking the dried autumn leaves maroon.

With a hint of fear in his eyes, the last man watched frozen as Aden lowered his raised greatsword. Viscous blood dripped down the blade.

“Pl-please,” he stammered fearfully. His gaze flickering towards the queen and princess mounted on their horses a short distance away behind Aden. Much to his dismay, he grimly realised he was the only one left alive. The rest of his accomplices either lay dying or dead in murky pools of their blood and innards.

The fear overtook his reasoning. He tried to run but slipped on the decomposing foliage, falling. Aden’s blade swung down as he attempted to rise to his feet a second time, decapitating him in a single fluid motion.

Aden stoically glanced around before turning back. 

“Pardon my unsightliness, Your Majesty, your highness” The duke apologised, bowing towards the queen and princess. 

“Hmm…” They nodded as they made a valid point to avoid glancing at the brutalized bodies. 

“Who were they?” queen Irina asked as Aden returned to them.

“Common bandits. The stupid things were hunting us for sport,” he replied offhandedly, as he wiped his blade with a random leaf and sheathed it in its scabbard before mounting his horse.

“Let’s go, your Majesties. We cannot camp here anymore, I suggest we find someplace else to set up for the night.”

Five hours later.

Under the shadowy light of the setting sun, Aden stoked a fire.

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The camp was silent, only the sound of katydids singing could be heard as nighttime steadily approached.

“Lord Aden,”

“Yes, Princess?” Aden said without looking up.

“My father,” she asked softly, “what happens now?” 

“He will survive,” Aden said, seemingly unperturbed by her underlying emotions. “They might starve him, humiliate him, mildly torture him, but…”

“He will be fine,” the middle-aged duke knelt in front of the bonfire poking the flames with a dead branch, his brown eyes reflecting a fiery glow. 

“Leonard is more useful to them alive. A dead king is of no value to anyone.”

Silence befell the camp once more for a few moments before Aden spoke again.

“I’m sure he is going to be fine,” he added, attempting to lighten the mood. “Very few know how resilient his Majesty can be if he truly desires so. It’s almost roach-like if you ask me, this I say from experience.” 

Which unsurprisingly was taken very poorly by the princess.

“You know that’s your king you are talking about, right?” Iris said monotonously, not in the least amused by the playful jab at her father’s resilience.

Aden shrugged noncommittally.

“Leonard is a brother first before a king in my heart. We’ve been friends long before he even took the crown.”

The princess fell silent in thought before sighing.

“So, where are we heading to now?” she asked.

“My fief at the border,” Aden replied. “We will hole up there for as long as we can until we can find a way to salvage the situation.”

“Greenfields?”

“Yes.”

“Can we save him?” She asked.

“Hopefully. With time we can buy back his freedom,” Aden said before adding hesitantly,” but given his captors and his identity, I probably won’t be able to afford the ransom unless I pay with my duchy and that would be stupid since I won’t be able to protect you anymore if I lose my title. 

“This might mean my household must swear fealty as a vassal to Hertalese in exchange for his freedom. This is unlikely to work unless your father also swears an oath of fealty and Algrim fully becomes a vassal territory. Or your household forfeits the throne to another royal household in marriage in hopes that they can negotiate or force for his release…

“Your marriage.”

Another bout of uncomfortable silence followed.

“I will try to contact some of the more trustworthy vassals before it comes to that. Hopefully, things do not deteriorate too much before then.”

“Thank you,” Iris said finally.

“For what?” Aden chuckled mirthlessly. “This is my duty as a sworn knight, friend, and brother so I don’t need that. If you truly want to thank me, just try to stay alive.

“And take care of your mother,” he added, looking towards the queen, Irina, who curled up in her corner of the camp and silently cried herself to sleep. 

“Still,” Iris insisted, “thank you.”

“I’ll keep watch. Go to sleep, your Highness, we have a long ride ahead of us tomorrow.”

{COS}

The Keep, Greenfields,

Souville province,

Algrim.

James sat at his desk, shirtless. 

He stared contemplatively out at the moonlit night. The beautiful starry sky, unpolluted by city lights. His pale skin was covered in crystalline droplets of sweat, fresh bandages wrapped around his torso covering his recently treated wounds.

Katydids sang an autumn cacophony far out in the open fields, their songs faintly audible. Eerie shadows stood out prominently on the stone walls, dancing to the silent melody of a flickering flame.

 The muted performance continued as the young man gazed towards the silvery crescent moon, much larger than earth’s. It peeked out from behind a floating cloud where it hung majestically in the sky.

 The transmigrator grew nostalgic, his eyes unfocused and his mind adrift as a sense of calmness permeated the atmosphere.

“So I did die…” he sighed softly with a sense of conclusion, “and this my reincarnation?”

 The idea of ‘transmigration’ and ‘reincarnation’ was not foreign to the soul once known as James. His old life had countless television dramas, web serials and web novels that depicted numerous renditions of such events. Until his transmigration, it was only a fanciful delusion, a tale of myth and fantasy that no one believed was real.

“The Contractor,” James mused with a self-deprecating smirk. “What the hell has my post-mortem nonchalance gotten me into?” 

“Levi,” James heard a soft knock on the door.

 “Come in,” he said without looking back as Lancelot walked into the room.

 “The maids informed me that you appeared to still be awake,” The viscount stated in a concerned tone as he walked to stand beside him. “You should try to get some sleep and let your body rest, young lord.”

“Where is Sean?” James asked, dismissing Lancelot’s concern entirely, “and the men who fought alongside him?” 

“…They have deserted,” the viscount hesitated briefly for a few seconds before giving a reply, “alongside your brother”

James frowned, muttering coldly before he could fully rein in the foreign rampant emotion. “He is not my brother.”

 Lancelot froze at the unexpected outburst, the room settling into an uncomfortable silence.

“Forgive me,” James said with a frown as he stared at his palm, “my emotions at the moment… Appear to be somewhat beyond my control.

“Why did he do it?” he asked with a weary sigh as he looked back to the stary sky, confusion clouding his features. 

”Does he not care what the duke will do to him when he returns? There will be a rather handsome bounty for his head when this reaches father’s ears.”

Distress flashed in Lancelot’s eyes. An emotion which the reincarnator was quick to notice.

“What happened Lancelot?” James asked with a sigh.

The young viscount hesitated for a moment before sighing wearily. “I guess he just does not care anymore.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Your father sent a message home that arrived two days ago by carrier pigeon. The capital, Greystones, has fallen, and his Majesty, the king, has been captured. Our lord escorts the Queen and Princess to safety as we speak, but details regarding the situation remain foggy.”

 “That is impossible,” James scoffed. “The capital fell? Balderdash!”

“Traitors made it possible, Levi,” Lancelot sighed, shaking his head. 

“Due to misinformation, our second fleet went on a wild goose chase to block a flanking manoeuvre from the west. This mistake left the first fleet to be decimated by a coalition fleet of Hertalean and Verumitte ships. 

“Shipbreaker bay fell in a day, a fire in two of the defending cannon towers the harbour allowed the Hertalean ships to dock. Earl Milas of fort Keptos was assassinated, his men soon falling to mutiny before the invaders even arrived. 

“Sir Tone surrendered Withall Keep to Hertalean occupation immediately after placing his father under house arrest. Viscount Pedro opened the eastern gates of wall Maria for the invaders to just march in.” 

“Greystones has fallen,” he said. “I tried to hide this news until the lord returned but Sean took advantage of that to sow discord and breakaway with a portion of the lord’s treasury and several of our men.”

James fell silent.

“Is there anything else you have to tell me?” He asked after another tense moment.

“Yes,” Lancelot said, not even bothering to hide anything this time. “The Hera’s… It appears they have also gotten the news and are preparing to disown their oaths of fealty.

“They also sent…” Lancelot paused as if the words got stuck in his throat. “A notice.”

“A notice?”

“Yes, an eviction notice. And it says we have five days to vacate the duchy with our knightage or they will resort to forceful expropriation.”

“How civil,” Levi chuckled softly with a glint in his eyes, “how ambitious.”

Lancelot watched the young man for a few moments longer, the odd edge to James’ gaze as he stared into the night sky unnerving him…

It felt almost unfamiliar.

“Lancelot,” 

“Yes, Levi?”

“Leave me.”

“…Yes,” silence prevailed for a few moments before Lancelot’s reply came forth. The viscount turned around to leave but paused as James called again.

“Lancelot,”

“Yes?”

“Regardless of what happens, from now on, I should be the first that is informed, understood?”

Lancelot glanced at the youth’s back, the unfamiliarity and unease he felt growing with intensity.

“Thank you,” the viscount said instead. “If you had not moved to my aid, I might have-”

“I need a full report of everything you can gather about the Hera’s in an hour, excluding nothing,” James interrupted monotonously, ignoring words. “Their fief, fort, men, family members, current locations, everything. In. One. Hour.”

Lancelot paused for a few moments before sighing.

“Yes… Yes, young lord.”

“You may leave. We will speak of what to make of Josh Hera’s ‘eviction notice’ when you return with what I asked for.”

James waited till he heard the door shut behind him before letting out his bated breath.

“Hue Dywn,” he mused ruefully. “I guess it’s Levi now then?” 

Shutting his eyes as he let the katydids’ song seep into his psyche, he muttered.

“Well, talk about a bad start.”

Morning, the next day.

 In his stone-walled room, James, now Levi, sat on his bed eating a kaya fruit, one that bore a striking resemblance to earthly peaches, albeit deep purple. A loaf of rye bread with a cup of milk lay on a tray by his side as he watched Lancelot staring back at him with dark circles under his eyes. Neither had slept all night.

 He turned to stare out the window, watching squirrels dart about in a tree not far off in the distance from his window.

 The serene quietness was broken as Lancelot spoke.

“Are you sure about this, Levi,” he asked hesitantly, “This might not work. 

“We only have seventy-four men left. Lord Aden took the bulk of our forces to aid the king at the first notice of war and of what was left more than a two-thirds had died or already deserted during Sean’s mutiny. The Hera’s currently outnumber us three to one.” 

The viscount’s eyes held a hint of uncertainty as he sat in front of Levi. “The slightest mistake could doom us all.”

“Then what do you suggest we do,” Levi asked in a detached tone in between bites. “Although unlikely, the Heras might probably hound us to death the moment we honour the notice and leave the safety of this keep, I don’t remember Earl Josh or his son to be the kind to play by the rules or leave any loose ends unattended.” 

Lancelot hesitated for a few moments before he sighed as he fell silent. 

“Do you trust me, Lancelot?” Levi asked, still staring out the window. 

Silence.

“Do you trust me?” Levi repeated as he turned to face the viscount. The suspicion in Lancelot’s gaze could not be any more blatant, but Levi could not afford the luxury of placating the older man. A show of force would have to suffice.

Lancelot stared back at Levi, for several moments, before collapsing under the transmigrator’s blank gaze.

“When do we leave?” he asked wearily, clearly giving up on convincing Levi otherwise.

“Today!” The transmigrator declared. “After I have had my meal, a bath and a proper nap.”

“I guess it’s high time I paid the neighbours a visit.” 


Disclosable Information:

  • Gambeson: padded clothing usually wore in conjunction with other forms of armour for bodily protection, as a stand-alone piece of soft armour or as an insulating piece of clothing in cold weather.
  • Wimple: a cloth headdress covering the head, neck, and the sides of the face, usually worn by women.


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