“Argo! Stop!” → Elizabetta
The queen shouted but was too late. The high elf was already at the demon’s neck when-
“Guh?!” → Argo
Charl took a step forward and struck his head right on Argo’s face, the iron collar around his neck shielding him from the sword that blindly slashed at him.
“Ugh! You…!” → Argo
Argo staggered behind two steps then shot venomous glares at Charl who, with a composed but sharp glare he commented on Argo’s actions.
“How uncivilized we are. Fighting in front of her highness just like this even though she herself ordered to stop. Are you going against a queen’s orders?” → Charl
“You little-…?!” → Argo
Just as he wished to strike once again, Argo felt a chill down his spine as the aura of the queen intensified once again. Not daring to make any eye-contact, he sheathed his sword and kneeled on one knee toward the queen.
“I await my punishment for going against her highness’s words!” → Argo
The queen glanced at him for a moment then back at Charl’s composed expression. Seeing how he was unharmed and neither was he holding any kind of grudge against Argo, she simply sighed and announced aloud.
“We will talk about your punishment later. For now, I wish for everyone present with the exception of the Greenmaple lords, King Ryu, and Sir Charl, to leave the throne hall at once.” → Elizabetta
“B-but my queen-!” → Argo
“I won’t repeat myself.” → Elizabetta
Although calm, this time her composure was what frightened the others, making everyone but the ones before told announced, to leave the hall in an orderly manner. Be them guards, high-elves, elders or great nobles, they all left while leaving the five people to continue their chatting with no disturbances.
Afterward, the queen herself stepped down from her throne and walked toward Heineken. Charl was momentarily dazed as he stared at her shorten the distance more and more. Elizabetta observed Charl’s dazed eyes and couldn’t help but smile in embarrassment while her long ears lowered, mistakenly forming a charming smile that dazed even the two high-elves together with Ryu for a moment. Charl who was right in front of her, felt the blow to the fullest as he tried his best to not appear like a fool in front of such divine beauty. Closing his eyes for self-restraint, with a solemn voice, Charl said such:
“Your highness. Please excuse me in brazenly asking to distance thy great beauty from my poor appearance. I’m afraid I might stain you with my filthy gaze, while sin with my shameless thoughts. Something that I’m refraining with my all on not doing.” → Charl1
“Every time you part those sweet lips, even sweeter words escape like nectar dripping from a wound on our great Yggdrasill. I think I could hear you speak day and night and still have my heart race like a little girl’s.” → Elizabetta
She sweetly whispered to him through a thread of mana so nobody else but Charl could hear her, then she simply snapped her fingers and the chains snapped then fell down at Charl’s feet. Surprised, Charl opened his eyes, he felt his free limbs then looked in front, only to be stunned at seeing the queen right in front of him with a bright blush on her face and a sweet smile that brought him into a daze once again. The queen then continued as she caressed Charl’s wounded wrists, slowly healing them with her own holy aura:
“You do not need to prove anything to me. You traveled from one part of the continent to another, deserting your lands of origins, crossing deadly forests, going through many battles and surviving many fights, only for you to see me. I followed your travels all this time whenever I was alone, and not only once have I wished to run your way to just take you out from the teeth of danger and peril. I observed your every step, Sir Charl, so there is no need to prove anything anymore.” → Elizabetta
Hearing her words, Charl was even more baffled as he was unable to believe that such a goddess was actually waiting for him all this time. He was unsure what to say as his once sharp or sweet words, were unable to form anymore, spouting out only stutters.
“M-my queen. I-I’m…” → Charl
However, the queen simply pressed her finger on his lips as she stopped him from talking. She then held his face in her palms and whispered:
“There is no longer any need for words, my dear one. Your spirit, your will, your decisiveness, and your wisdom have already made me understand that another one there does not exist for me.” → Elizabetta
She then got on her toes as she kissed his forehead. Suddenly, his once cut, dirty, and wrinkled clothes, were now looking like new as even his messy hair was once again neatly trimmed, the filth and blood that once covered him, being cleansed completely. If before he had the appearance of an injured vagabond, now he had the appearance of a wise and calm emperor. Master of himself, able to find an answer to any question and resolve any problem. Although before he was only a City Lord, he was still able to rule his city in a way that would never make them dependent on his neighboring cities or the capital. After going through his travels, his senses sharpened, his skills got refined, his view widened, while his wisdom deepened. For a few months, he had to travel by foot from a part of the continent to another while being only of Master power-rank, now reaching the great power-rank of Saint. Such a speed could be compared only with the warriors of Antara, and even there he would be called a true talent and genius.
At first, frozen from surprise, his eyes softened as he lightly smiled then held her hand into his, kneeling on one knee as he lightly kissed her hand.
“If her highness is willing to take this unworthy Charl Heineken of the Wolfgang tribe as her partner in life, then I will be more than honored to say that as long as this body takes breath, I shall never let anything harmful reach your majesty, while only happiness and blessings shall fill your every day. I, Charl Heineken, swear on my blood of a Wolfgang, on my horns of a demon, and on my honour as a man, that all promised till now and from now on to you, Queen Elizabetta, I shall follow and accomplish or may all the gods of Sario smite me to dust like a deviant and renegade of nature I’ll be if I’ll ever do so.” → Charl
A blushing smile appeared on Elizabetta’s face as she tried her best not to jump with joy at the find of such a gentleman, then turned toward Ryu and asked:
“Now that everything has settled down for now. May I ask King Ryu to explain once again about the external problems to my fiancé? If it’s not too much trouble.” → Elizabetta
A brilliant smile appeared on the Queen’s face, dazing everyone present for a moment. Then Ryu woke up from his daze and smiled calmly, trying to not be too impressed by the queen’s charm.
“But there won’t be any problem.” → Ryu
What a fearsome smile. This is that kind of smile which would daze men and women alike. → Ryu
After Ryu explained everything, Charl finally understood what was happening and nodded in understanding. He thought for a while then asked:
“So King Ryu is wary of a possible invasion from Alfheim, am I right?” → Charl
“In a more direct sense: yes.” → Ryu
“But we would never do such a thing!” → Evan
Evan interjected as a revolting expression appeared on his face. However, Charl and Ryu still wore skeptic gazes as they both glanced at one another. Then Charl shook his head with a helpless sigh and explained.
“We understand your noble decisions to help an ally in need, Lord Evan. But Alfheim is a great kingdom, with many powerhouses and even more people with authority. Excuse my impertinence but, taking action behind her highness’s authority won’t be as hard as thought. Even the Demon Lord, as fearsome and strong he might be, he’s still unable to completely control his subjects, myself being a good example.” → Charl
“T-this…” → Oliver
Oliver then remembered about the war between the demons and elves when the queen ordered everyone to retreat, but some still remained behind to fight on their own accord.
People have their own minds. They will follow orders until where they’ll find an opening… → Elizabetta
The queen was also feeling somewhat conflicted at the thought of a possible movement behind her back, even so, she couldn’t find it impossible either. Heineken then lifted one finger as he continued:
“However, there is one reason why King Ryu could accept Queen Elizabetta’s offer with no worries.” → Charl
“Oh? And what is that?” → Ryu
Ryu asked curiously while even the queen seemed more interested.
“The main facto can be the great distance between the two kingdoms. You said there is a portal between the two, am I right? Then, I can advise his highness to fortify the portal from Antara and keep a close eye on the exchange of personnel from the two kingdoms. Like this, once the 200 Alfheim experts enter Antara, you could then immediately close the portal, or at least seal it in any way.” → Charl
“Wait. You make it sound as if we could invade Antara at any moment.” → Oliver
Oliver was the one who looked with a frown this time as his voice turned more wronged.
“Why so many complicated defensive systems between allies when we could just make an open trading point and be trading partners? Although we do have a great martial might, we are still a peaceful race. As long as our World Tree is not endangered, then we will never show aggression even to the neighboring tribes and cities.” → Oliver
“Lord Oliver is right. On my name, I can swear that my people would never show such foolish aggression against anyone outside our lands, let alone against our hero’s place of refuge.” → Elizabetta
The queen made a step forward and with a solemn expression, she softly placed her hand at her chest, such as making a calm promise.
Seeing her so sure of her people, Charl made a small smile and nodded in agreement.
“No, there is no need for promises, Queen Elizabetta. From the moment I arrived in this place I understood that elves are unlike demons: they don’t lie, scheme, or think only of themselves. I can see that you, people, once made a promise, you will follow it until the grave.” → Charl
He then turned to Ryu and slightly bowed in respect.
“Now, King Ryu. With all my soul I can say the elves are of one word and heart. They might take action on themselves at times, but they will never glance at what’s not theirs. In fewer words, the possibility of beginning a protectorate under Alfheim is lower than with any other kingdom on the entire Sario.” → Charl
Ryu thought for a moment then sighed out in distress.
Shen saved them from imminent danger. The queen herself told us she’ll never turn weapons against us, rather, she would help us in times of need… No, I’m worrying too much. Maybe because of all the fights we had until now and how every time another kingdom sent its people our way we had to fight first, talk after. Maybe because this time we talked first, we might be able to evade conflict. → Ryu
“Alright. I will accept the defensive elite unity from her highness. However, I want them to be under my command the moment they entered into Antara’s territory.” → Ryu
“But of course. I will give orders to General Argo and place him together with his group under your command. However, even though they are strong, I would ask King Ryu to take good care of them. They are still an elite after all.” → Elizabetta
“May her highness not worry about them. I will view them as of our own with the same rights. Also, in case of need, they will have the authority to return to their own kingdom ASAP.” → Ryu
“I thank King Ryu for understanding.” → Elizabetta
The two monarchs then shook hands and after Argo was summoned once again inside the hall, he was immediately commanded to gather a group of 200 elites and follow Ryu through the portal. With a tranquil heart, Ryu returned, not before asking Elizabetta, just out of curiosity, about hers and Charl’s future. At his question, the queen’s eyes sharpened and explained with a calm tone.
“Of course, he will remain here by my side. So what if my ancestors had never had a life-partner of another race? So what if the demons are supposed to be our enemies? Founder Shen found Charl inside my Wheel of Life, seeing him as my own pre-destined. And I wholeheartedly accept such a destiny, no matter what anyone else says. I’m the queen and so my wish is law.” → Elizabetta
Ryu was unsure of how to feel about this, thinking that a revolt might break out if words about their future king might turn out to be a demon, but Oliver reassured him, seeing the worry in his eyes.
“Please don’t worry, king Ryu. The World Tree itself chooses the monarch of Alfheim, and going against her highness’ words are going against the World Tree. In addition, Yggdrasill is a godly deity that wisely decided the ruler of Alfheim for millennia already. Nobody would dare outspeak in front of the World Tree too vehemently. Besides, the queen enjoys the greatest popularity of us elves. The other high elves might judge her decisions now and then for unreasonable reasons such as She’s too young, she lets her emotions govern her, she takes rushed decisions, and so on. But up until now, all her decisions proved to be beneficial for Alfheim… with the exception of that one time when she decided to approve of the tradition and not let Shen help us… I think this is another reason why she wishes to bring forth a change inside Alfheim and let our people move on from the stagnant traditions.” → Oliver
He smiled helplessly as he thought of the great pains Shen had to suffer back when the seal was broken. Being one of the high-elves, Oliver and his brother were also one of the elves who tried to close back the seal, and also one of the high-elves who proved to be unable to hold the 13th prince down.
Ryu looked surprised at him for a moment and asked confused.
“Too young? So 21 years old is young for a ruler, eh?” → Ryu
Hearing his remarks Oliver laughed aloud then continued.
“Boahahaha~! She might look like only in her twenties, but in truth, she is over 200 years already. Has Lord Shen not told you before? We elves have a different concept about time.” → Oliver
“W-well, for sure that’s new to me…” → Ryu
Ryu’s face paled as he glanced one last time at Elizabetta who was now chatting merely with Charl, thinking of just what kind of surprise will the two of them have in the future.
With a group of 200+ elite elves, Ryu returned back to the kingdom and gave their command to Bernard who immediately accommodated them and put them to stay on guard at the Eastern gate of the former city, together with Maru that was already there, calmly reading a book.
As order returned to the new stone kingdom of Antara, Ashura walked inside a great stone-temple on which a wooden blank was pinned at the entrance with the words INFIRMARY being written with dark ink. Inside was a room on the second floor, Tara sat down on a wooden chair beside a sleeping Khalid, a peaceful expression on his face but full in bandages. A creaking sound was heard as Ashura pushed the door and entered with light steps. With a frown he looked at the bedridden Khalid, feeling guilty for this, and also apologetic to Tara who was still hanging her head downwards. Unable to bear the silence, Ashura opened his mouth, only to be interrupted by a whisper.
“Tara, I-!” → Ashura
“I’m sorry, brother…” → Tara
Hearing her soft voice, Ashura froze in place and asked unsure, looking at his depressed sister in confusion.
“Eh?” → Ashura
“I was always against you fighting Khalid… seeing two of my most precious people fight one against the other… It made my heartache.” → Tara
“B-but why are you-“ → Ashura
“Because I did nothing to stop the both of you!” → Tara
With a soft voice Tara, exclaimed helplessly, tears falling down her white cheeks as she gazed at Ashura with guilt and sadness.
“I wanted to stop you both from fighting… I really wanted to do something! But then… I saw Khalid’s eye’s while he was crafting and building the armor… I never saw such a lively shine in his eyes… The always cold and indifferent eyes were now shining like those of a child. Thinking that I might be a reason to make that happiness disappear from his eyes made my heart heavy… and I couldn’t help but falter at the thought of stopping the duel. Even worse, I couldn’t help put assist Khalid in his work, seeing how he finally needed me for his work… I’m… the worst. Sob…” → Tara
She covered her face as she cried in hushed sobs, her shoulders trembling from guilt and self-blaming. Seeing her like this, Ashura was unable to stay still as he got a hold of her shoulders and shook her lightly, his burning eyes desperately trying to wake her up from this circle of pain.
“Tara, stop.” → Ashura
With a firm tone, Ashura looked into her surprised and wet eyes and continued to talk, his tone serious as he couldn’t let his sister blame herself for what he did.
“There is nothing for you to feel guilty. In both Khalid’s name and mine, I can say that everything was our own fault and nobody else’s. Khalid proposed a duel while I accepted it like an idiot without thinking. We both entered the fighting area with the utmost confidence in our own powers. Just think about it, would he have stopped and nulled the duel only because you asked for it? I for sure wouldn’t have done so.” → Ashura
Only if you started crying. But I’ll leave that for myself. → Ashura
Ashura tried to keep the same serious expression on as he thought that it might have been more than possible for Tara to stop the duel if she really tried. But telling her that would help nobody, so he refrained.
With the same teary eyes, Tara thought for a moment then shook her head.
“I-I don’t think so… Maybe if I asked some more-?“ → Tara
“It was our pride at stake. I doubt he would have stopped.” → Ashura
Trying to stop her in thinking that she had a chance, Ashura interrupted her instantly with a rather solid argument. Although he didn’t like to lie to his sister, he wanted to be sure that there was no more room for self-blaming, making her believe that even if she tried, nothing would have worked.
“Maybe… You’re right…” → Tara
Tara’s head dropped with gloom, but at least she stopped blaming herself like before. Ashura then continued with a weak and sad smile on his face, patting her white head gently, a warm smile on his face.
“I’m happy that you understand. Now, stop blaming yourself and show me your pretty smile. I promise you I’ll never start another fight with Khalid, nor with anyone else from, or inside this kingdom. As for you helping Khalid, I think it was the most natural thing to do. On his own, he would’ve been no challenge.” → Ashura
“It seems you’re asking for another bullet in your head, brat…” → Khalid
As Ashura struck his chest in a prideful manner, a weak voice resounded as Khalid weakly opened his eyes, staring daggers at Ashura.
“Khalid! Are you alright now?” → Tara
Tara hurried by his side as he slowly tried to get up in a sitting position, the bandages burdening his movements.
“Please take it easy! You had 3 ribs broken, both arms were dislocated from the shockwave, while your muscles were strained to the breaking point! Please take more time to rest.” → Tara
“Ugh… had? They are not anymore?” → Khalid
At first, baffled by his sorry state, he then tried to lift his arms and slowly close and open his fists to see if the muscles and tendons were still working properly. Seeing his surprised expression, with a proud face Tara explained to him while laying him back down.
“Yes! Queen Bonny healed you herself! However, she still said that it would be best to rest up for at least a day or two. The flesh wounds are also there as they are just superficial wounds.” → Tara
“I see. I should thank her later.” → Khalid
Khalid nodded in agreement, then stared at Tara with a complicated glint in his eyes. The moment Ashura and Tara started talking, Khalid was already almost awake, by the time they started conversing Khalid was hearing them intently as conflicted feelings swirled inside him.
Ashura observed Khalid’s gaze and understood what he thought. However, his first words were:
“Oy bastard. For how long are you going to ogle your eyes at my sister? Don’t make me take them out!” → Ashura
“Your obsession with your sister is quite sickening, you know? I should still have one or two more guns ready for your head. Maybe I’ll be able to heal your sick head if I shake it a bit.” → Khalid
“Ho~? Even bedridden and you’re still spouting s***. Come to daddy and let me heal you back up.” → Ashura
“Stop flexing that artificial body of yours. Goddamn, where are my guns?” → Khalid
“Both of you, stop! Ashura! You! Get out! Khalid has to heal up! And Khalid! Stop provoking my brother! You have no idea how worried I was! Start another fight and I’ll be sure to bring King Ryu or Lord Shen to mediate things between you two!” → Tara
“Ugh. The way Shen is right now, I feel like he’d bring me in for a Spartan training session.” → Ashura
“If that’s true, then I’d rather evade that outcome as well.” → Khalid
As the two of them threw at each other poisonous words one after the other, Tara stepped in between the two of them and pushed Ashura away from Khalid in a hurry. She then continued to push him outside the room, all the gloom and depression from her face disappearing like smoke.
Seeing how she was suddenly feeling better, Ashura calmly winked at Khalid, while Khalid answered back the same way.
The next moment, Ashura was outside the infirmary room, a light smile on his face as he calmly walked down the corridor.