Chapter 13

I sat on the stairs, waiting for my brother to show up. He needed to talk to father but promised he would speak to me again today afterwards.

A soft pat was on my shoulder as Tia sat next to me. She smiled at me and seemed to enjoy the positive around me.

“I heard your brother is here. I haven’t had the chance to meet him.”

“He is with father right now. But he said he would come to talk to me again. It will be another day before his wife and men show up.”

Tia looks down, contemplating something. I notice it and pry into her thoughts.

“What’s that look for?”

“Just… Nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Tia smiles widely.

Putting two and two together, she must be pretty lonely, and since Dunick has arrived, she feels left out. So, with a gentle smile, I wrap my arm around her head and hug her. She was startled briefly before hugging back.

“What, this all of a sudden?” She asks, baffled.

“We haven’t had time to ourselves for a bit. And you’ll be leaving pretty soon.”

“I’m fine.”

“Here, let’s take a walk.”

Leading Tia by the hand, a pleasant stroll around the manor calms the tension within her. We speak frequently about ourselves and what we like—a nice moment of exchange between us.

Hours go by, and the night sky is set. I lean on a window, still waiting for Dunick to leave father’s table. Tia had stayed by my side to provide company. I only did half my lessons for dancing and studying sword arts.

“Damn it, what is taking so long!” I shout.

“They must have a lot to discuss. It isn’t something simple, and having your brother here, a lot needs to be discussed with the heir to the house.”

“Well, whatever is so important, I think I should be there too!”

“Caleb, wait-“

Tia reaches out to stop me, but a sudden shadow flashes before me, and the hidden Mei approaches with a gentle smile.

“I wouldn’t recommend that young Master. I understand the urge and need, but be mindful of matters left to the right people.”

“Mei… Just let me through.”

“Under Father’s orders, I cannot.”

“Fine!” With a huff, I race downstairs. Tia follows at a distance.

“Maybe tomorrow you can talk to him.”

“His wife will probably arrive by then. I don’t think he will leave her unattended. From what father told me in his letters, they are pretty happy together. I don’t want to get in the way of that, but I really wanted to spend more time with him.”

“Spend more time, you say?”

Dunick had abruptly interrupted me, leaving me a little speechless.

“Brother…! I thought you were still busy.”

“We decided to wrap it up and get some rest. So, naturally, I wanted to find you. Since you wanted to talk to me so badly?”

“Well, I just wanted to get your attention…”

“It’s okay if you do. Now, I am guessing this is the little lady who will be my little sister.”

Tia shyly waves and looks away. She instinctively hides behind my back. I try to get her out in the open, but she seems shy around him.

“N-Nice to meet you, I am Tia Eliska.”

“I see my brother has already made a good impression on you. That makes me glad.”

“Dunick… Stop teasing her.”

“I’m sorry, it feels good for a brother to see his sibling doing well and better than he last remembered.”

Zao approaches us.

“I’m deeply sorry, but Master Aris requests a quick audience with you.”

“With me?” I reply.

“Correct, sir. He must see you immediately.”

“So, father finally came to a decision.” Dunick mumbles out loud.

“What do you mean by that?” I ask curiously.

“Don’t mind me, Caleb. Hurry and see father. I keep Tia company till then.”

“If you say so. I’ll be back.”

I begin to walk to my father’s council room. An aura seemed to surround the whole mood as I approached the door. Opening it, my father sat in his chair, finishing a letter.


“Caleb, please sit down. I will be with you in a moment.”

“Sure, father.”

I listen and seat myself. Zao and Mei’s presence was held within the room. Their prying eyes were constantly observing us and the surroundings.

Valum puts the letter to the side, and Zao takes it before bowing and seems to vanish to send it off.

“Now then, I have important matters to discuss with you, son. So, please listen until I finish.”

I nervously swallow. The situation has already been on the worst of terms as war has begun to approach.

“The Empire advances quicker and quicker each day to surround our lands and Kingdom. Heistorm is going to be a giant battleground within the year. I fear that many difficult things may happen to you or anyone in our family. Duni ck will stay by my side as we ride for war. Commander Eckhart will see to your care and train you while we are on the campaign. I’ve been thinking ever since the assassin that our home isn’t even fully safe. They are getting better at getting past our home and getting that close to you. I must protect my family. You will go with Eckhart and train with him in Saiana Village. This will happen soon after young Tia and Soldia leave our home.”

“So, I will need to be in the public? Are you sure that is wise?”

“Saiana village is where I was trained and raised. It has nothing but loyal citizens who have supported our family for generations. It is out of the way of any proper roads or marching lines, and it is a perfect supply depot for us to restock on any supplies we may need.”

“Wait, are you saying-“

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“Yes, Caleb, I am putting you in charge of our supply line for me and your brother’s army. Not only will it be your sword school, but it will be your responsibility to rule and oversee it with utmost vigor. Eckhart will technically be in charge, but you will have a say in the village’s efforts. Eckhart has been notified of his new position, and even if he has expressed his distaste for the idea, you will be stationed with a personal guard of five Scarlet knights. As well as a small garrison of fifty infantry and archers. The village has exceptional gates and walls that can withstand a full-frontal siege for months. The only main problems of the village are the increasing number of creatures attempting to harass the townspeople and their livelihoods outside the village.”

“I-I don’t know what to say…”

I was left speechless. I never thought he would do this, but he did. A wave of mixed emotions filled my heart. I couldn’t process it.

“And this leads me to the troubling news.”

“What is it?”

Valum looks down before standing tall. He walks over to me and kneels beside me. I give him a stern look, a sudden realization that he shouldn’t treat me like a kid now. A soft smile crawls across his face before nodding and standing back up. He stares at me and takes a step back.

“The severity of the Empire’s forces and the speed at which they will launch their offensive is far greater than I could imagine. I will not lie; we are trying to build up our militia and train more knights, but this war will not be short. Win or lose, live or die, it will be a battle of attrition. No matter what happens, they will continue to chase after you and take Heistorm and our house. With this growing danger, I am afraid me and Soldia have decided to postpone your marriage with Tia.”

“What!” My voice reached a whole new level of anger. I jumped from my seat, knocking the chair I was in over.

“Soldia fears that the marriage between our families will paint a target on Tia, which paints a target on their house in Duldat. They wouldn’t send an army but the same assassins as before to their home, and I think you know what could happen.”

Only allowed on

“I don’t believe it.”

“I know how much you bonded with Tia this past month, but this is for the best.”

“Tia is much more than just a bride to me… She is more than someone I just met.”

“Zao has reported to me about your progress with her. I am truly happy for you both, I really am, son, but it pains me to agree with this decision.”




“Soldia didn’t deny the marriage entirely.” Valum turns toward me with a sly smile.

“In fact, he has expressed the intention to make it official on the day of their departure that you and Tia will be kept secret about the engagement. So, congratulations, Caleb, you will be engaged to Tia Eliska within seven days. If the war drags on, you’ll be free to leave Heistorm and move to Duldat when you officially turn eight teen and graduate from your lessons. Until then, you will not mention or discuss about the engagement in public for their safety.”

Wholly frozen, I stood there, not knowing what to say. Either thank my father or hate him for pushing back the proposal for another four years. I blinked and hit my back against the wall.

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