I.1 The Boy on the Lone Road

  A boy was traveling across the grassy plains along the road. The sun was beaming bright and sweat poured from his forehead. It was the spring season, but it felt as if summer had already taken root. Nothing had trained him for his ordeal, at least what he remembered. Before he fell to the floor, accepting defeat under the burning sun, a horse-pulled wagon stopped next to him. An old farmer lent his hand to the stranger.

  “Welcome to the Kingdom of Damore, young stranger. It seems like you are in a peril.”

  The boy smirked. “Heh, seems like it. I thought it was Damore’s policy to not trust strangers.”

  ”The kingdom may have its rules, but the Goddess Saya wills kindness over anything. My village is not that far and you will need rest for your next adventure.”

  “If you say so, old man. Thanks.”

  The old man whipped the reins and his horse continued to pull the wagon. The boy slumped over, taking out his canteen to drink.

  “What is your name, young adventurer?” the old man asked.

  “Aren… Aren Damoder.”

  “Hmm, an interesting name.”

  Aren raised his brow. “Never heard of me, huh? Good.”

  “Did you come to these lands to get your name recognized? Such a daunting, yet noble dream for a young sir such as you.”

  “Not really recognized, just…” Aren was silent for a moment. “… I just so happen to be interested in Atlas Reinhardt. He’s, uh, quite popular in the East, where I used to live.”

  “Atlas Reinhardt, the Hero of Thyderalis?”

  The old man turned to face Aren. “Hoho, I see even that name stretches to the lands beyond my home.”

  “No doubt about it, no doubt about it…”

  Atlas Reinhardt was one of the many legendary heroes of Thyderalis, many would say the greatest who ever lived. He was able to save the world twice from inevitable destruction and with his companions, stopped a godly being from destroying the world. The hero was known as a tragic figure in history, losing his kingdom and family due to political strife.

  Not many records told what transpired after his fateful events: some say he committed suicide due to this grief, others believed he became a villain in another tale. Little did they know the “Greatest Hero who ever lived” was relaxing on a horse-driven wagon, listening to an old farmer talk about his life.

  “The village is just ahead, I’m sure that—”

  The man pulled the reins and stood up, taking his hat off and stared with eyes wide open. Several armed men were outside of the village entrance, holding the Elder by the throat. These were the same people who constantly raided his home of supplies, ruining a peaceful village’s quality of life. For some reason, they are getting desperate and the frequency of their attacks has been increasing.

  Aren knew this by assessing the situation before the old farmer even opened his mouth. He had experienced this time and time again.

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  “That looks like a rowdy group. What’s the holdup?”

  “Those damn bandits are taking everything from us. Soon, they will go for our women and children too if this keeps up.”

  Aren slumped and put his hands behind his head. “Oh noooo, only if there was someone to save them from this crisis….”

  “Yes… If someone who can fend off against those fiends will our lives be saved.”

  Some time passed and the two were silent. The yelling of the bandits grew louder.

  “Am… Am I supposed to say something?” the old man asked.

  “I dunno. You tell me.”

  The farmer stared with a suspicious look on his face. Surely the child does not intend to face those muscular fiends by himself. The closest thing he has for a weapon was a machete and those brutes were carrying longswords, halberds, and longbows.

  The bandits continued to bully the Village Elder, pushing him around and laughing. Their leader’s patience was running thin and, at any moment, they may kill an innocent person. Several villagers came to interfere, but all were knocked aside like ragdolls.

  “That’s it! We are going to take everything in this village! All of you will be our slaves, from this moment on!” the muscle-head bandit screamed.

  Seeing the circumstance had gone dire, the farmer turned to Aren, who was chewing upon a strand of wheat.

  “Sir Aren… Can you fend off these horrible people and save my village?”

  “Hmm, I guess this one time I can get out of my retirement. Be back in jiffy.”

  “Retirement?! Wait, come back!”

  Aren jumped off and dug his boots deep into the ground. He walked and approached the rowdy adults, tapping one by their shoulder to get their attention. The bandit turned and soon, called his mates to surround him.

  “Look what we got here boys! Someone’s trying to play hero!” one of them mocked.

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  Aren scratched his head. “Well your statement is technically wrong since—”

  “Shuddap! We will beat down people who get in our way, especially little kids like you!”

  “Yeah yeah, whatever. Listen, if you are going through with this, I’m gonna have to stop you all.”

  The bandits laughed and their leader shook his head in disbelief. “Who, you? What can a short kid like you do to us?!”

  Aren’s face turned bright red upon hearing the remark. His fist turned bright yellow and he shattered every bone inside the ruffian’s chest. The muscle-head bandit fell to the ground, incapacitated after the sudden blow.

  “I’m NOT short, okay?! I was much taller back then! Take that back!”

  Realizing their overconfidence cost them their leader, the others soon engaged in combat. They brandished their weapons and shot their arrows, but one by one was brought down by the mighty blows of Aren’s fist. The rest of the bandits fell on their knees, begging for mercy.

  He casually pulled the arrows from his body, expressing a dumbfounded look. “Gimme your money. All of it.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  The bandits handed most of their belongings and left the premises, dragging their fallen comrades away. The village Elder shivered in fear, seeing not a child but a monster in front of him. Despite this, he had saved the villagers from future attacks for now. He was helped on his feet and composed himself.

  “Young warrior, I thank thee for saving us from such an ordeal. How can we—”

  Aren fell to the ground and his stomach growled. It was clear his stomach was begging for food and his starvation led to his fainting. The Elder’s mouth dropped, seeing the stranger had befallen in such a state.

  “Ugh…By the Gods. I’m so goddamn hungry…” Aren grumbled.

  He passed out and not knowing what to do with the foreigner, the villagers decided to take him in under the Elder’s roof. It wasn’t until the next day when his adventure truly began.

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- my thoughts:
Updated after reviewed by fellow peer.
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