Chapter 24

Opening my eyes after a blurry dream, the stinging pain of my head and arms weighed heavily. I stared at the familiar ceiling of my room.

“Mm… Worst headache…Ever.” My voice was raspy, and a fever had set in.

“Master, you’re awake!” Celia was sitting next to my bed.

“It seems I find myself bedridden quite often.” I chuckle at my irony.

“Too often, but at least you are alright.”

“I’m just glad everything is safe and the village- Wait! What about Juile?” I shout and jump from my bed, pushing past my frail state.

“Easy Master. Besides the few casualties, everyone in town returned intact and alive. On the other hand, Julie had some severe wounds, but when I checked on her, she seemed to be clinging to life. She used to be part of a party as a ranger, so she has fared worse than what happened this morning.”

“I need to see her and thank her properly for-“

“What you need to do is rest for tonight. your wounds are minor, but you have a fever; unnecessary strain or stress will only hinder your recovery.” Celia lays me back in bed with a firm grip.

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I sigh and nod.

“Good, I won’t yell at you for putting your life on the line for these people, but if you die recklessly, not just me, but almost everyone in this village will suffer for it. Especially after today, a lot of them have come by to offer their sincere praise and admiration for your actions in saving those who would have died if it weren’t for you. If you were gone, they would lose a piece of their hope as one of House Aris’s loyal villages.”

“I see…”

Celia smiles and quietly opens the door. Standing in front of the entryway is Eckhart. His brooding stance and crossed arms leave an impression of his presence.

“How is he?”

“He’s awake; if you want to talk to him, make it brief; he needs rest.”

“Very well, I won’t make it long.” Eckhart lets Celia pass and closes the door behind him. Stepping into the room, he begins to ponder a thought.

“What is it, Eckhart?”

“Just a thought.”

“Is it about earlier?”

“Of course, it is.”

“You want to yell at me, don’t you?”

“More than ever.”

Only allowed on

“Too bad I am recovering.”

“Yeah, that is too bad.”

“So, what do you want to say to me?”

“Fine, I will go out with it. I heard you were able to defend against an ogre with your artifact. That is quite a feat in of itself for someone your age.”

“Father gave it to me; it has proven to be more useful than I thought it would.”

“Indeed. But that is not what I want to say. What I want to say is that you were able to wield a sword and slew that goblin.”

“…Yeah, I did.”

“Following our deal, you have completed your part of it.”

“Not really.”

“Are you saying you still want to turn yourself to the Empire?”

“No, don’t be ridiculous. That isn’t an option for me anymore.”

“Then what is?”

“When I can get out of this bed, I will show you my resolve.”

“And what is that?”

“People depend on me: the people living here, my father, brother, even Tia. I have to get stronger, even if it will be hell. I don’t know if I can still hold a sword, but I know I will have to. I want to aid my father as soon as I can.”

“You intend to join his side during this war?”

“War… A fitting word, that is. If I can avoid war, I would love to, but to end my nightmares-my worries, I need to get stronger to help resolve it. If I can do that, I can finally… I can maybe finally forgive myself.”


“Nothing, just talking to myself.”

“Very well, when you are able to get on your feet, my Lord, come find me; we will see if you can call yourself a warrior or a boy.” Eckhart hastily exits the room, leaving me to relax and let the time pass before feeling the need to sleep once again. 

The morning rose, and my fever had subsided for the most part. Opening my eyes, I still had a few bruises on my face and a red nose from my injuries, but more or less, I was feeling fine. I had left the house alone and went to look for Eckhart in the usual spot.

In the distance, he stood with his arms crossed, observing Carlo practicing once again with a dummy. It had been a couple of weeks since I saw Carlo, but his form and sword use had improved, and he seemed more focused. However, he didn’t use the shield, which most knights are trained in, and he focused on using a blade with one hand. Eckhart usually would have been furious, but something about him today was quite different.

“Are you ready?” Eckhart asked me.

“No, but I have to be.”

“Good. Pick up the sword. Show me your so-called ‘resolve’ and let me judge if you are worthy of being trained.”

He motions to the sword in the snow behind him. I stare at the blade briefly before approaching it and wrapping my fingers around the hilt. Soriko appears in front of me once again. She stares at me with cold, dead eyes, blood leaking from her mouth, and the cruel pain within my chest stirs. I grit my teeth, clenching harder on the hilt and pulling the blade from the ground.

The dulled blade still weighs heavily on my small body. I grip the sword with both hands, visibly shaken; I stare at my broken reflection. The image of Sato Haruki stares back; his bloodthirsty eyes and soulless aura call to me. The grip of my fingers begins to soften, and the blade starts to slip from my hands like before.

I catch the handle and swing the blade, cutting through the illusion I created within my heart. Not entirely defeated, the haunting memories only lurk in the back of my mind, waiting for the moment to ravage my sanity. But, for now, I stand with the blade steady, a soft shake of my wrist as the lingering feeling of fear and sorrow still plaguing my soul, but not enough to break me. Eckhart turns to observe me like he did with Carlo.

“I can work with this. Don’t disappoint.” His tone is that of an instructor rather than a loyal knight.

Raising his blade to me, he shifts his stance, ready to strike, given the chance. Taking a deep breath, I grip the sword tighter, my gloves preventing any of the cold steel from tearing my skin apart as I do. I stare at the mighty knight before me, ready to prove myself to him.

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