Chapter 764:Resolve

As it was ought to do, time continued to move forward and, the day after the enrollment of the new students, it was time for another separation of parent and child. Vahn had been up the entire night, watching over the children in the dorm, so he had been thinking long and hard about things by the time he had returned to the Manor. When he had gone to her room, Vahn found Riveria sitting listlessly on the edge of her bed, staring at the cradle containing Masonia. She didn’t even respond to his presence at first, only turning after he called out to her, dried trails of tears marring her beautiful face. His presence seemed to awaken something inside of her that she had been fighting to keep down as, the moment she realized it was Vahn who entered, Riveria clung to his body and began crying once again…

Though he had thought about it a great deal, Vahn couldn’t even imagine what Riveria was going through right now. She and her father didn’t have the best relationship when she was a child but it was obvious she still cared about him deeply, as children ought to do. Over the past few days, she and Larfal had been spending a fair amount of time together and, now that the time for their permanant separation had come, he wasn’t surprised she was in such pain. Still, while she was crying in his arms, Riveria never once asked him to help Larfal overcome his fate. She, like the tragic King himself, had accepted the reality of the situation. They both accepted the burden of their royal blood and, in order to ensure the future was secure for their people, both father and daughter had found their resolve…

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By the time the departure was scheduled, Riveria had worked to restore her appearance back to a more natural state, even though anyone could see she wasn’t holding up nearly as strong as she’d like them to believe. Larfal himself was much the same, looking haggard but containing a resolute light in his eyes as, for the first time in a long time, the two shared a long embrace together. Vahn just stood at the side, holding Masonia in his arms, watching the two give their final farewells. In truth, he feared he would never truly understand situations like this as it almost seemed ‘senseless’ to take such actions when you had ways to circumvent them. He hated that sacrifice was ‘necessary’ in some situations, just to smoothen over things for other people much later down the line…

After Riveria and Larfal finally parted, the latter turned to Vahn or, more specifically, the bundle in his arms. The light in his eyes seemed to blaze like a bonfire as he walked over and looked into the face of his sleeping grandson, muttering, “I am full of regrets…but, to create a better world for all the generations to follow, this is something I’ve chosen to do…forgive me, young one…” Then, as if finally realizing his presence, Larfal raised his head to match Vahn’s gaze, saying, “Vahn Mason…in all my years, I’ve never seen anyone like you…so young…so capable…please, I know it isn’t truly my place to ask this of you, and I know you would do so without my asking, but take care of my daughter and grandchild…please…”

Once again, causing his guards to twitch, Larfal bowed low and implored Vahn to protect the two most precious things held within the King’s heart. In response, Vahn took a deep breath to retain his composure before solemnly stating, “No matter what happens, even if the Heavens themselves collapse upon the Mortal World, I will bear the burden in place of my family. I will never allow harm to befall them, regardless of the circumstances…that is my pride as a Husband and a Father…go, Larfal, King of the Elves, knowing that your legacy will continue forward into perpetuity…”

Hearing this, Larfal showed a gratified smile and reached out his hand, patting Vahn’s shoulder as he laughed boisterously. Many of the guards, each knowing what they were going into, also produced small smiles since, much like their King, they believed the future or their people was already secured. They, too, had seen Vahn’s performance the previous day, even viewing it on a loop after having one of the [Projection Sphere]s provided to them. His prowess simply went ‘beyond’ anything they had expected, giving them full confidence that the progeny of their Liege was secure with Vahn around.

Before Larfal was able to board his carriage, Riveria had reached out her jade-like fingers and gripped the edge of his robes, muttering, “Father…” This caused the King to lower his head slightly and, without turning to face his daughter, state, “The future of the Elves now rests on your shoulders, my child…and…I’m so proud…of you….” Though nobody could see them, it was easy to infer that Larfal himself was on the verge of tears at this point, if not already crying. His voice was shaky and the fact that he refused to turn back was a true testament to what he was feeling right now. He wanted his final moments to show his resolution, not his weakness…not again…

Appearing as though it was one of the most difficult things in the world, Riveria continued to grip the hem of Larfal’s robe for nearly a full minute before a sound snapped her back to reality. Masonia had awoken and started crying, causing her to look back instinctually, face filled with concern. Then, as if uttering a magic spell, Larfal said, “Go to him…a child needs their parents…” Though Riveria didn’t seem to think too much on his words at that time, Vahn felt like his heart was seized by a skeletal grip, tearing away at his chest with a fierce intensity. Still, he stood staring at the back of the King, suddenly finding the latter’s shoulders to be much broader than his own…

Using the moment when his daughter had let go, Larfal boarded the carriage and the guards quickly fixed their formation as Lendal proudly raised his banner and shouted, “Forward!” in a commanding tone. Riveria, no holding Masonia, followed their departure with her eyes and, even if she wasn’t aware of it herself, she took slow steps towards the gate to continue doing so for a long while thereafter. Vahn stood there silently, supporting her as best he could while also following the procession with his gaze. Seeing more than a hundred people willingly march to their deaths, without any discernable hesitation, weighed heavily on both his heart and mind. He knew they were deserving of his respect but, deep inside, Vahn felt like this entire thing was just…so senseless…

After around twenty minutes had passed, Riveria turned her eyes away from the direction her Father had left. She looked into Vahn’s face, a wavering light in her jade-green irises as she said, “I’m fine, Vahn…let’s go inside…I need to feed Masonia…” Vahn lightly nodded, supporting Riveria’s trembling body as they made their way inside. The Hearth Manor, which was always filled with warmth, now felt like a chill had settled into it. To counteract this feeling, Vahn surrounded Riveria and Masonia with as much warmth as he could manage, letting calming energy envelope the entire room as he embraced his wife and child…a glimmer of light flashing across his pupils when he saw Riveria break down into tears once again…

When the procession had originally left the Elven Kingdom, they had used a powerful formation that had generally been reserved for evacuating the royal family to safety. This was how they were able to make a journey of more than six-thousand kilometers within a single day’s time. As to the reasons such an extreme method were used, it was because Larfal had desperately wanted to see his grandson while simultaneously creating a ‘gap’ for his enemies to exploit. At this point, almost all of the Noble houses each had their plots against him, with the number of attempts at his life already numbering greater than a hundred. Even Alfred Els Lainu, the man he had treated as a friend and brother for more than a hundred years, had been plotting to seize the throne for himself, blaming Larfal for the failures and crippling of his son, Alosrin.

For the last ten months, Larfal had been using what remained of his power and authority, using his connections with both the Sage Council and High Priestess Faction to bide time. Fortunately, he still had the adulation and respect of his people as, even though some of the Noble houses had tried to slander him, the rumors simply lacked credibility. After all, it was ‘very’ difficult to believe when the people you ‘knew’ were responsible for so many atrocities were the ones telling you someone else was bad. This was especially true when families started being forcefully taken into those very same Nobles’ houses, never to be seen again. When rumors began spreading of a large number of Elven slaves being handed over to the Dwarves of the Iron Hills, everyone knew the ‘truth’ of the matter, making it much more difficult for them to actually depose him.

Remembering the foolishness of his own kin, who touted their superior intelligence over the other races, Larfal couldn’t resist snorting. Though he also believed that the High Elves were a superior species, as the ‘facts’ were readily available, he wasn’t one of the people that advocated their doctrine of racial superiority. The only thing that truly mattered was the survival of their people, something that had been jeopardized by nearly a thousand years of policies he had been too weak to change. In the past, he had given up his freedom, his love, his family, all for the sake of things he hadn’t truly believed in…now, to set things right, he was paying the price with his own life. It was one of the only ‘real’ decisions he had ever been able to make and, even though he was filled with regrets, they weren’t able to shake his conviction…

It was with that same conviction that, several days after their departure from Orario, Larfal burst forth from his carriage to fight against his attackers. As expected, they had been ambushed on their return trip to the Elven Kingdom, fire and ice striking against his carriage in an attempt to take him out instantly. Fortunately, the barriers held true and Larfal was able to leap outwards as he began his own chant, causing a massive emerald green magic circle to appear beneath his feet. He might not be as strong as his daughter, but that didn’t mean he would be taken out so easily.

Loosing forth a tempest of wind, infused with the power of destruction, Larfal loudly exclaimed, “Traitorous dogs, you dare attack your own King!? Do you truly believe your Masters, the very men who have wronged you and your families, are deserving of your loyalty!?” Though he knew it wouldn’t make much of a difference, Larfal cried out to rile himself up. Magic might be more difficult to cast when a person was in a heightened emotional state, but it also made the resultant magic much stronger. His family had always been able to use magic containing the power of Destruction and, much like the name implied, it was capable of wreaking havoc on everything, even other magics.

Surprisingly, in response to his shout, a voice Larfal recognized sounded a response, “The only traitor here is you, Larfal! What right do you have to sit upon your throne when you can’t even keep a single sow in line!? What value do your words possess when you so readily break promises!? You even go to the very man who had stolen your daughter, attacked my son, and enacted a blockade against our people! You have betrayed everyone! Your own wife, your daughter, your allies, and now, your very people!”

Accompanying the shout, several arrows and a powerful fire magic shot towards Larfal, breaking against the barrier he had erected. The man who had shouted out was none other than Alfred, the father of that bastard, Alosrin, the swine who had pined after his daughter’s flesh. However, as if to make his asinine words even more ridiculous, Alfred actually had the assistance of foreigners in the ambush. He was obviously trying to stage things to look like it was outsiders that attacked them, likely using it as a justification to rally the people and seize the throne for himself.

Seeing that his ‘friend’ had turned into a true traitor to their people, Larfal just snorted, raising his staff high as he shouted, “The Els Lainu family has betrayed the Kingdom, conspiring with outside forces to commit regicide! Give these traitors no quarter!” In response to his words, the surviving guards all released a loud warcry and continued to fight against the vastly superior enemy forces. They were easily outnumbered four to one but, as if the opposite were true, the Royal Guards continued to strike down their assailants like farmers harvesting wheat in a field. Even Alfred was somewhat surprised by their fervor but kept a contemptuous scowl on his face as he looked towards the man who had ‘betrayed’ him.

Larfal knew they wouldn’t be able to last that long and, if not for the fact his enemies were trying to make it appear like an ambush from external forces, they would have already died. After all, magic was a very powerful tool to use during an ambush and it wouldn’t have been that difficult to set up a variety of powerful traps. This would be much more difficult to explain away, however, thus leading to this situation where only weaker magic, swords, spears, and bows were being used to slaughter them. Still, even though this was the case, Larfal continued to fight with full confidence that he had already won, much to Alfred’s chagrin.

Long before he had left for Orario, Larfal had already made use of his own network, along with his daughter’s, to spread the information about today’s attack. He had also gotten the support of the High Priestess Faction who, knowing that he was willingly facing his death for the better of the Kingdom, had decided to support him. Though it might be talked about openly, it was known by all of the important figures for the future that his death was undoubtedly a result of internal conflict, not external interference.

The moment any of the Noble houses tried to lay the blame on others, they would instead be putting targets on themselves for the people to focus on. Though some would inevitably believe the Noble factions, especially those who supported the racial superiority of the High Elves, Larfal had already come up with a countermeasure for that as well. He had compiled a list of every single Elf that had been sold into slavery, who had sold them, and where they had ended up. For the last ten months, he had accumulated information on more than five-thousand slaves, which would now become public knowledge with his death. This would undoubtedly lead to greater internal conflict, but this was a trial that his people needed to overcome if they wanted to raise their heads high in the future…

Though he had held out for nearly twenty minutes, Larfal’s defensive artifact finally sputtered out as an Adamantine arrow pierced into his shoulder. Accompanying the pain, he felt his nerves begin to tense up as a numbness quickly began spreading through his body. Understanding the arrow had been poisoned, Larfal just smiled towards the man he once treated as a friend, muttering decisively, “You bring doom upon your own people, yourself, and your kin…what a petulant little man…haaaaa.”

As if having salt applied to an open wound, Alfred’s expression became even more fierce as he tore the bow from the man next to him and knocked an arrow of his own. With a cruel smile on his face, Alfred coldly stated, “You were never fit to be King…” before releasing the arrow and watching it fly. Not really having the time to nod, Larfal just looked directly into Alfred’s eyes, completely agreeing with the foolish man, though for entirely different reasons. He certainly hadn’t been qualified to be King, as it had only been the catalyst for every regrettable mistake in his life, but, in the end, he felt that his life had purpose. Though he hadn’t been able to give her the throne she rightly deserved, Larfal had an amazing daughter and, now that she had the support of someone like Vahn, Larfal knew there was hope for the future of their people…

Seeming to travel in slow motion, the pristine white arrowhead reduced the distance between its lethal tip and Larfal’s forehead, holding true to its course as it prepared to claim the life of a King. However, though it seemed as though nothing could have obstructed its flight path, the reality of the situation was quite different from expectations. As if it had been there from the start, a figure appeared within Larfal’s vision, obstructing his view of the arrow and the traitor who had fired it. In the next instant, a tyrannical and oppressive aura descended upon the forest as a cold and solemn voice resounded in everyone’s ears, “I won’t give you the satisfaction…”

Alfred’s eyes widened when a stranger suddenly appeared, snatching his arrow deftly out of the air and glaring towards him with blazing blue eyes. Just as he wanted to shout out, asking who this newcomer was, the man was already right in front of him and, unable to voice any word whatsoever, Alfred found himself lifted from the ground. He didn’t even have time to struggle as a sickening feeling welled up from his stomach, followed by a powerful ‘jerking’ motion. Then, before his brain could even process the pain, darkness had claimed his mind…

Though almost everyone had stopped after the oppressive aura had appeared, they became absolutely silent when they saw this strange man cover the distance between the King and their attacker in an instant. Then, with the ease of a butcher preparing a chicken, the man wrung the neck of Alfred and allowed his lifeless body to drop to the ground. They didn’t even have time to process what was happening, however, as pain suddenly spread through the body of every person performing the ambush. Looking down, with what remained of their strength, each and every one of them saw black ‘spears’ originating from their shadows, piercing through their bodies as if they were kebabs. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the same ‘painless’ death as their Master and were left to bleed out on the ground after the spears removed themselves from their bodies…

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Not even sparing a glance towards the attackers, Larfal continued to stare blankly at the man before him, completely ignoring the painful numbness in his body as he asked, “Why…I-” Before he could continue his line of questioning, the man had looked back at him, a firm light burning vibrantly in his eyes as he repeated the words Larfal himself had said in the past, “A child needs their parents…you have failed Riveria too many times to simply throw your life away here…I don’t want to see her cry anymore…”

Hearing this, Larfal felt like the numbness in his body had spread to his brain but, in the next instant, a warmth began to spread through his body, completely driving away the feeling. It wasn’t just him either, as most of the people around him, including the attackers, felt the same warmth spreading into their bodies, repairing their broken bones and mending their wounds. The only real difference was that the attackers also felt an oppressive force weighing down on their bodies, which had been crippled from the spears completely shattering the ‘cores’ in their abdomens. They would live to face the justice they were due, even if they only did so at the behest of their now deceased master. Many of them were slaves that were forced to take action so the man, none other than Vahn, wouldn’t reap their lives so readily…

Vahn looked out over the site of the battle, clenching his teeth for having waited so long to take action. Now, more than eighty of the King’s escort, including Lendal, had been slain, bodies splayed out on the ground with still-resolute expressions on their lifeless faces. In truth, he had just intended to bear witness to Larfal’s death, having felt it was his responsibility to ensure that Riveria’s father was at least treated with dignity after the fact. However, his main body was, even at this very moment, drinking tea with a very tired looking Riveria. Though he might have been able to repress his emotions in other circumstances, he simply couldn’t be sitting comfortably with his wife while simultaneously watching her father sacrifice his life…he just couldn’t…

Walking over to Larfal, who was still kneeling on the ground, clutching the arrow in his shoulder, Vahn pulled it out with a painful yank and began healing the wound as he plainly stated, “You made your resolution, Larfal, and I respect that…however, I too have made my own resolutions…I want to make a world where people can be happy…where everyone can smile without having to worry about the situation they were born into…how can I build that kind of world when I can’t even save the father of my wife…the grandfather of my child…? No…I can’t do it…I won’t just sit back and ‘wait’ for change to come…I can’t allow this senselessness to continue…not anymore…”

Without allowing Larfal the chance to respond, Vahn pulled the slack-jawed King to his feet, dusted off his shoulders, and then patted his back, saying, “Come…we have work to do…”

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