Author’s note: I’m actually excited to finish this story already! Who’s excited as I am? 😂 Twenty+ more chapters (that includes epilogue and side stories), and were done~
“Wuce!” Alenaire clapped her hands together. “Wuce!”
“Wuce!” Luce repeated as he giggled.
“Okay, Luce. Do you know her name?” Alasdair patted Alenaire’s head gently.
Luce tilted his head to the opposite side. After a few seconds passed, he said, “Awi-neh!”
Alenaire clapped her hands together and squealed. She iterated, “Awi! Awi!”
“That’s rather cute!” Alasdair laughed as he spoke in adult-like tones. He sometimes had this habit of pretending to be older than he actually was. “I rather like the nickname Awi!” He pointed at his little sister. “From now on, I shall call you Awi!”
“Awi! Awi!” Alenaire clapped her hands offbeat. She wobbled towards Luce and used her small plump hand to grab on to his sleeve.
Luce pushed her away. “No!”
Alenaire squealed in protest as she slapped him in the arm. “No!”
“No!” Luce pushed her away again, his face contorted.
“Kids!” Alasdair shook his head, pretending to act like the royal butler who disdained childish acts. Just before he could break them away from each other, Luce had grabbed ahold of her hand, which caused Alenaire to shriek as she tried to pull her hand away.
“Noooo!” Alenaire cried.
“Kids!” Alasdair sighed. He pried the hands apart and held their hands instead, which quieted them both. With the kids in tow, he walked to where his father and the Great General were soberly discussing matters of the kingdom.
“Father!” Alasdair said loudly.
The King turned his head, a crease forming between his brows. “Have patience, Alasdair. Your father is busy.”
“But they’re so noisy!” Alasdair griped. “They need etiquette lessons together!”
“No, I think you’re the one who needs them, Alasdair,” the King said helplessly.
“You’re the same as mother!” Alasdair puffed out his cheeks.
“Patience boy, patience is the key!” The King turned back to look at the map. “I have asked The Council of Elders about this matter, but I seek your opinion, Cassius. Say, if we were to move the mages to this location and perhaps have the architects construct a watchtower, wouldn’t this be in their favor?”
“Certainly. If you add a central tower for communications here,” the General pressed a forefinger against an X on the map. “It would be best. For now, you may deploy mages and archers together, or mages and my infantry. There are also mages who can use mind-linked communication channels that aid us during wartime, and having clerics would also be an asset, in case of unanticipated injuries.” The General tapped his chin in thought. “We need to strengthen our defenses, so we must build impregnable walls around the Northern border as well.”
The King nodded, then sighed. “It is a benefit to us that all the four countries in the central continent are now in an alliance. After that risible war two decades ago, where they were reckless enough to try and invade us and failed, they had no choice but to opt for an alliance if they did not want to suffer.” The King shook his head and chuckled, recalling past memories. He looked back at the map and pointed. “So, our borders on the East, West and South do not need much sentries. However, the problem lies with our Northern borders. If what my spies are telling me are true, then we must prepare.”
The General crossed his thewy arms over his chest. “If they wish to defeat and conquer the central continent, then their preparation for a scale of that magnitude would take a decade or more. There is a vast ocean that lies between us, so they would have to build thousands of fleets to accommodate an army of a grand scale.”
“If they wish to destroy my country,” the King gnashed his teeth, “And everything I worked so hard for achieving, then I will personally cut off their heads.” The King looked at his hands, clenching and unclenching them. “I have not used my swords in many years, but for them I will.”
“Is there war?!” Alasdair, who stood and listened on the side, shouted with horror.
“No, little prince. Well, not yet,” the General replied as he shook his head. “These are merely extensive precautions. Many kingdoms from the different continents want to take over our fertile land. We must be vigilant lest we come to regret in the end.”
“I’m also an elemental mage, you know!” Alasdair decided to boast at this time. “I can help!” He looked at the General, waiting to be praised.
“Is that so?” General Cassius smiled and extended a hand to pat the little boy’s head. Normally, this kind of intimate act with a royal was prohibited, but General Cassius was already like a family to them. “When was your awakening?”
Sometimes the powers came when one was still a child, and sometimes it came even as late as an adult. Awakening one’s powers depended on willpower, imagination, affinity, and at times even necessity.
“Just a few months ago!” Alasdair puffed out his chest, eager to look cool in front of his idol. “It’s ’cause of Awi!” Alasdair motioned for the General to lean his ear towards him, and he then mentioned the following in whispered tones which incidentally the King could still hear, “I accidentally made her fall in mud and I didn’t want to tell anybody. My magic tutor told me a secret that water can be found in air so I imagined it and then there was water and then I started bathing Awi and then…” Alasdair rattled on and on.
“Alasdair…” The King said in a warning tone. “Perhaps I shouldn’t leave your sister to you after all…” Although there were nannies that were employed just for the princess, the prince had insisted he was mature enough to look after her all on his own when he was not preoccupied with Royal lessons. Nonetheless, there were always Royal guards who followed them in secret, in case any sort of mishap were to occur.
“Father!” Alasdair panicked. “I promise I’ll look after Awi properly! I’m the best!”
King Altair’s vein throbbed on his face. “Alasdair…”
“Your Majesty,” General Cassius tried to stifle his laugh. “If it were to be any consolation, I wish to recommend my own son as your princess’ knight. I will assure you she will be safe in his hands.” The General finally found a way to insert this suggestion, without sounding so ambitious.
“General, are you saying she’s not safe with me?!” Alasdair pouted, his pride hurt.
“I am not saying that, little prince. It is that, wouldn’t it be safer if the princess had her own personal knight to rely on when her dear older brother would be engaged in future matters?” General Cassius patted Alasdair’s head once again, and the little boy looked less miffed. “When you grow older, there will be no assurance that you have all the time to look after the little princess.”
“Fine.” Alasdair crossed his arms over his chest, mimicking what the General himself had done a few moments back.
“I have actually thought of the same thing, General,” the King said as he stroked the stubble on his chin. “It’s quite a splendid idea. I wish for your son to take the post you used to have: the personal knight of a royal personage. However, the official knighting will still proceed when he reaches thirteen.”
“Why don’t I get a knight?!” Alasdair whined.
Alasdair was giving his father a splitting headache. “Alasdair, please. You don’t need a knight. What you need is a tutor to school you in manners.”
“Father is so mean!” Alasdair whined again. “Right Awi?!”
He looked at his sister, but she was busy sucking her thumb.
“That’s no good, Awi! You’re gonna grow another thumb if you keep doing that!” Alasdair reprimanded as he took her thumb away from her mouth. “That’s bad!”
Alenaire raised her other hand, and sucked on her thumb, a contented look on her face.
“Bad!” Alasdair brought her other hand down.
Alenaire looked like she was going to cry, but stopped when Luce went to stand by her to touch her arm.
“Bad!” Luce repeated, making Alenaire cry in the end.
“Shhh! Shhh! Don’t cry!” Alasdair panicked as he took his little sister in his arms. “But it’s bad! Mother says you shouldn’t suck on your thumb! It’s against the law!”
The King and General Cassius looked perplexedly at each other, then guffawed.
“Why are you laughing?!” Alasdair demanded as he calmed down the weeping princess. “It’s true!”
“It’s true?” General Cassius turned to the King as he raised one eyebrow.
The King shrugged. “If my wife says it’s true, then who am I to say otherwise?”
Both of them started laughing again, knowing all too well how formidable wives could be.