In the blink of an eye, it was already Lokil the 5th turn, and the end of Alivai.
The Paltos family sat around the dinner table. In front of them was a modest but lavish feast.
Stuffed and roasted qorkos glazed with the sweet extract of kargiz fruits from the previous year, sautéed slices of dronnon meat seasoned and cooked to perfection, a meaty stew with plenty of diced vegetables, a pan of sliced mulse bread, a small bowl of boiled qorkos eggs, and soft roasted derilt root slathered with butter to top everything off.
“Thanks mom.” Seeing the abundance of food for just the four of them, he realized the occasion. It was to celebrate his 9th birthday that passed two days ago while he was still at the academy.
“You’re welcome. Go ahead and eat whatever you can. We’ll save the leftovers for tomorrow.” Adalina replied with a warm smile.
“Mommy, Anish eat too?” Anise questioned from her spot on the table.
Adalina chuckled, hearing her daughter’s question. “Yes. You too, honey.”
Taking a slice of the sautéed meat, she cut it into small bite sized pieces and put them on Anise’s plate along with a slice of the mulse bread. Breaking off the qorkos wing, Adalina picked off the meat and added them onto her daughter’s plate before filling up her own.
Seeing the plate of food, Anise was ecstatic and began digging in.
“Use your fork darling.” Adalina told her daughter, seeing that Anise was picking at the food with her tiny hands.
“I heard Lord Varath is finalizing a trade agreement with the hunting town of Thurllton. How is that going?” Kaidus asked Troyle as he picked up one of the meat slices and placed it onto his own plate.
“Quite good. The town’s been doing really well ever since they got rid of their bandit problem. If everything goes as planned, it may even become an exclusive contract.” Troyle replied, consuming a spoonful of stew. “How’s school coming along? Not as busy as before I presume?”
“Yes. I’m understanding more of the subject matters, so the class works have gotten lighter.” He casually replied while eating.
Not being mages themselves, Troyle and Adalina rarely questioned him in depth about his school and classes. When they did, they didn’t understand his explanations.
“That’s good.” Troyle nodded. “Anything we can help you with?”
“No, but thanks.”
“Kaidus. Your mother and I may not be mages, but let us know if we can do anything for you.”
“You two don’t need to do anything. You all being here is enough.” Kaidus replied with a joyous grin.
“Hahahaha. Alright.” Troyle returned a wide smile of his own.
Hearing her father’s laughter, Anise looked up with a curious face. Her mouth slathered with oil and pieces of food.
“You’re growing up way too fast….” Adalina muttered, a cheery smile on her face.
After dinner, the four moved to the living room. The sun had set, but the room was well lit by candle light.
“Your mother wanted to wait until you were older, but I got mine when I was around your age. You are more responsible than I was, you should be fine with this.” Troyle spoke, taking out something elongated and wrapped in cloth from underneath the low-rise living room table. The sound of metal could be heard as Troyle placed it in front of him.
Kaidus unfurled the cloth. Inside were two swords, each the length of his arm. The swords were neither intricate nor did they look too costly, but he could see they were well-made.
Unlike the broad double sided swords many of the knights used, the two swords were single edge swords. Both were slim and had slight curvatures to them without any guards. The design of the swords were simple but effective in their practicality, and was the type of swords used by mercenaries who favored speed and ease of movement.
“Waaah! Shword!” Anise’s eyes widened at the two new swords. “Ish Kai gonna be knight?” She questioned with excitement.
“Not yet.” Adalina smiled and picked up her daughter to make sure Anise doesn’t get hurt.
“These are for me?” Kaidus asked, looking at the swords.
“They are, honey.” Adalina answered him.
“I know that you may not need it since you are a mage, but it would give me peace of mind that you can defend yourself without using magic. Also, it’s important that you train your body.” Troyle replied. “Go on, pick them up.”
Kaidus touched the deadly metal. Sensations hidden away resurfaced, bringing about recollections of the past. Of an old friend. He quickly suppressed them, focusing on the matter at hand.
He gripped the two hilts and lifted. With their lean design, the swords were quite light. Even though each were as long as his arm, he held them in each hand comfortably.
“How do they feel?” Troyle asked.
“They feel okay. A little long though.”
“Don’t worry about that. It’ll be fine in a year or two.” Troyle grinned.
“Are you going to teach me the Formless Blade Style?” Kaidus asked. It was the style that Troyle uses.
“I am.” Troyle’s grin widened.
“Father. I’m not ambidextrous like you.” Kaidus notified his father of a large difference between them.
“That’s perfectly fine. There are many practitioners of the Formless Blade Style who aren’t. Being ambidextrous just gives you a slight edge over the others.”
“I see. Alright.” Kaidus affirmed with a bright grin, conveying his excitement.
Troyle has been wanting to teach him swordplay for over three years now, but Adalina had been against it because of how young he was. From the look of things, it seems Troyle was able to persuade Adalina somehow.
He could not hide behind his mother anymore, and his father would not allow him to refuse. Kaidus accepted his fate with a smile.
“Great! We can start tomorrow.” Troyle was thrilled at the chance to bond further with his son.
Adalina muffled a laughter, seeing how happy her husband looked.
“Are you not going to Lord Varath’s tomorrow?”
“The lord is waiting for words from Thurllton and there are a few preparations left, so I’ve asked for the next couple of days off. He also extended an invitation for the whole family to go visit. How about it?”
“Maybe before I go back the academy…” Kaidus replied hesitantly.
Troyle gave a shrewd smile, seeing Kaidus’ reaction. Adalina giggled, knowing exactly what the visit would entail.
Kaidus sat on his bed, deep in thoughts.
It has been two whole turns since his first attempt to contact his remaining familiars. Zion had arrived, but the other two were nowhere to be found. He had tried to resummon them four times, but there was never any answer. The more he thought about what may have happened to them, the more uneasy he became.
Kaidus closed his eyes, entering into a state of calm. ‘There was no way anything thing could have happened to them.’ He reassured himself. Vishan rivaled Hasen—his most powerful elemental—and Feziel was the sturdiest of the four.
Focusing on the lost familiars, he once again pushed forth his mana, pouring it out and into Lagus.
With two moderately sized sticks in his hands, Kaidus imitated Troyle who was also using sticks.
Right foot forward vertical slash.
Back step horizontal slash.
Left hand thrust.
Left foot forward, right hand upward slash.
Reverse grip parry.
Low angle diagonal slash.
Kaidus went through the motions, following Troyle on each one and resetting into a different pose before following up with each successive attack.
They have been practicing ever since breakfast.
The living room table and chairs had been moved toward the kitchen to make room for them.
Anise watched from the stairs, eyes glued on the funny dances before her.
“Good. Now incorporate them together, and-”
Left hand horizontal slash, right foot pivot, right backhand elbow strike, instantly followed by a right-hand upward slash, left hand reverse grip slash, double synchronized downward strike. Reverse grip stance. Strike, slash, parry, low spin evasion, upward slice, and counter, evade, and thrust.
“Waaaa! Daddy!” Anise clapped from the stairs, seeing the flurry of motions.
“Hehe! Thanks honey!” Troyle grinned at his daughter. “It doesn’t matter if you are ambidextrous or not. All that matters is your swords flow fluidly, not disrupting each other or getting entangled in your arms.” Troyle spun the sticks in his hands around his body without so much as grazing each other or his clothes. “Know the length of your sword and feel the placement of their positions as you-”
The door opened and Adalina came in. She was carrying a small cloth bag in her arms filled with grocery. “Are you two not done yet?” She questioned them with a raised eyebrow.
“Mommy!” Anise bolted towards the door at her mother.
“Welcome back dear. We were just about done here.” Troyle replied. “As I was saying, know the length of your sword and feel the placement of their positions as you swing them. Don’t get careless and remember to concentrate on what you are doing. Your swords can just as easily take your own life, as it could your enemy’s.”
“I understand, father.” Kaidus replied in earnest. He knew full well the dangers of a weapon.
“You two! Move these back so I can get started on lunch.” Adalina ordered.
“Yea! Move theesh back! Mommy make Lunch!” Anise also shouted happily.
“Whoops, looks like we’re done here. Go and wash up. I’ll move them.” Troyle shooed him off with a proud grin.
“I know I agreed for you to teach him swordsmanship, but you’re going to burn him out like that.” Adalina chided him as Troyle began to move the furniture back into the living room.
“He’s tougher than we give him credit for, dearest nagging wife.” Troyle replied with a smirk.
“You… That may be so, but he’s just a child.” His wife replied, squeezing into the kitchen.
“I too, was just a child when my father first hired an instructor for me.” He replied, picking up the low table and restoring it to its rightful spot—in the center of the living room.
Adalina laughed at his statement. “You were a troubled child that needed to be disciplined. Kaidus isn’t.” She replied from the Kitchen.
“It’ll be fine. I turned out well enough.” He answered before sneaking into the kitchen.
“I turned out fine, didn’t I?” He questioned, hugging Adalina from behind and pecking her on the cheek.
“KYA!” Adalina shrieked and dropped the stems of green Furuce she had just taken out of the bag. “A-a little bit,” She replied. Troyle continued to kiss her cheek, moving to her neck. “Stop. Stop that, I’m trying to cook.” Adalina scolded.
“Daddy! Anish too!” Anise cried out, tugging on him.
“Does my little girl want a kiss too?” He picked up his cute daughter.
“Well then, here! And here! And here!” He kissed both her cheeks and her forehead, moving back to snuggle her cheeks.
“Eheheh!” Anise laughed joyfully.
“It’ll be fine, Adalina. He’ll be fine. I can see it in his eyes.” Troyle reassured.
“If you say so. Just please, don’t overdo it.” Adalina cautioned.
“I would never do anything to cause him harm. He is my pride.” Troyle replied. “And this, is my Joy.” He kissed his cute daughter again, then put her on the ground. “And you my dear,” Troyle took Adalina into his arms. “You are my light, my star, and my life.” He gave her a passionate kiss.
Before she starts gasping for air, he released her and quickly picked up Anise and retreated to the living room.
“Yo-You man-child! Anise was watching!” Adalina yelled after him, but her tone of voice was unconvincing.
Grinning and trying to keep from laughing, Troyle sat down in the living room with his daughter.
He was already laughing triumphantly in his mind. Not just because of the exchange between him and Adalina, but because of his son, his daughter, and his current life. He was happy.
Troyle’s smile widened, thinking about his young son. The boy was not only a powerful mage, but given time and training, the boy will undoubtedly surpass him. Troyle couldn’t help but laugh at his prodigious son’s knack for the sword.
The boy’s movements earlier were nearly perfect. His son was like his very own echo, following every motion almost flawlessly. The only difference was that his son favored the right arm over the left, and he himself favored them both equally. Even so, after only a morning of practicing forms, the child was already grasping the movements effortlessly. There was no telling how long before the boy could fight against him equally.
“Are you a tiny bundle of surprises too Anise?” He questioned his adorable daughter.
“Anish ish a big girl!” The little one replied, beaming with happiness.
“Not yet,” Troyle smiled. “For now, you’re my cute little girl.” He gave her another kiss on the forehead.
Three days later in the 11th ward.
The Varath Manor.
“Thank you all for coming, and welcome.” Lord Alzin Varath cordially greeted them at the door with his wife Reanne.
“Sorry for the short notice, and thank you for having us.” Troyle replied.
His whole family was also here today. Adalina, Kaidus, and Anise.
“Come on in.” Lord Varath propped open the door himself, inviting them inside.
The common room of the Varath manor was extremely different from that of the Paltos house.
Furnished with extravagant and comfortable cushioned seats, a number of chairs ran alongside two intricately designed tables. There were vases filled with plants and flowers, works of arts plastered the walls, and the room itself was as spacious as the whole first floor of the Paltos house.
“Please make yourselves at home.” Lord Varath stated, being the first to take a seat.
“Reanne dear. Where are my children?”
“My lord, there is no need for-”
“None of that, Troyle. I’ve told you many times. In these situations, we are guests and host. And foremost, friends. Call me Alzin.” Lord Varath interrupted Troyle. “And there is a need. You’ve brought your family to visit. It is only fitting that mine shows the same respect and come greet their guests.”
“I’ll go call them. Adalina, would you please join me?” Lady Reanne asked.
“Certainly.” Adalina gave a devious smile. “Come on Anise, you’re coming with mommy.” She picked up Anise and they strolled off with Reanne, leaving the three boys to play together.
A servant came into the room carrying a tray filled with cups and two jugs of beverages, placing them onto the table before being excused by the lord.
“Some wine for Kaidus?”
“Just a little. Something else to mix with it would be great.” Troyle answered.
Lord Varath poured himself and Troyle each a cup of wine, then poured a small dose into another cup and added the contents of the other jug for Kaidus.
“Derilt fruit juice and a dash of Terinthian wine.” Lord Varath spoke with a grin as he handed the cup to Kaidus. “I hear you enjoy the fruit.”
“Thank you.” Kaidus took the cup and sipped it. The sweetness of the derilt fruit overpowered the taste of the wine, but he could smell a tinge of the wine’s rich aroma.
“My lor- Alzin, any words from Thurllton?” Troyle questioned once they’ve all taken a drink and a moment to relax.
“No, not yet. It seems the leaders are still deliberating about the exclusive contract.” Lord Varath sighed. “They’re perfectly fine and jumped at the chance for a trade agreement, but asking for exclusivity has got them arguing amongst each other. It’s not like I’m paying them any less for exclusivity.”
“They’ll come around. No one else would pay that much for pelt and hide.”
“Well, it’ll be fine. Even with a nonexclusive agreement, the trade should still bolster my future endeavors.” The lord smiled, looking at the profits—albeit a lot smaller.
The sound of footsteps could be heard.
“Good afternoon Troyle, hey Kaidus.” Larant came into the common room.
“Hello, Larant.” “Hello.” Troyle and Kaidus greeted back.
“Father, what are you scheming this time?” Larant questioned his father, a knowing grin on his face.
“Guh- Scheming?!” The older man almost dropped his cup. “Boy, we are just having a friendly chat. What a ridiculous thing to say… me, scheming…”
“Father, you were running around like a madman after getting word last evening that Troyle’s family would be visiting. You’re telling me you’ve got nothing up your sleeves?” Larant responded inquisitively.
“You are getting too insightful for your own good. Stop blabbering and come sit down.” Lord Varath sheepishly voiced, taking a gulp of his drink.
“Thank you, I learned from the best.” Larant provoked, sitting down next to his father.
“Where’s your mother and your sisters?”
“Mother told me to come first. She’s making sure Jillian and Sylvia are… presentable.” Larant gave a shrewd smile.
“…” Lord Varath saw the underlying message and couldn’t answer.
His son knew everything.
Even though Larant had been busy learning how to control his newly awoken magic the past year, the young man was very perceptive and could see right through him. The boy loved to torment him just like his mother.
“Have you finished your replica of the academy’s lighting apparatus?” Kaidus asked Larant, changing the atmosphere around them.
“No, not yet. I’ve got the device built, but I don’t know the runes required for the device to function properly. Unfortunately, runes are not taught until Intermediate Magic Artificing. All of us beginners are just constructing devices to help the intermediate students learn how to inscribe runes now.”
“Then next year you’ll be the one inscribing runes, while someone feeds you freshly crafted devices?”
“If I can pass the beginners test, that’s what I’m hoping for.” Larant grinned.
“How is Larant at the academy, Kaidus?” Lord Varath asked from beside Larant.
“Kaidus no. Keep it a secret!” Larant cried out.
“He is very hardworking and friendly. I hear he is one of the artificing master’s favorite student.” Kaidus complimented with a grin.
The sound of footsteps was coming toward them.
“AHHAHAHA!” Lord Varath burst into laughter, drowning out the footsteps. “This one here? A hard worker? AHAHAHHA!”
“See, father? This is why I try to hide my activities from you.” Larant groaned.
The lord quieted down, wiping away a tear. “Ha…. Sorry my boy, you’ve just been such an indolent person, relying on your words most of the time that I couldn’t help myself. It’s a good thing you’ve learned the pleasure of hard work.”
“I have my moments…” Larant muttered.
With the sound of footsteps, a group of ladies came into the spacious room.
Two beautiful women in their prime. One was holding a little girl who had been dressed up in a frilly vibrant red dress that paled in comparison to the silky redness of her hair.
Followed by a tall and beautiful blue hair teenage girl who was currently in the process of ripening into a woman. The defined protrusions of her bosoms were evident through her green dress, and her figure, given a few years, would be irresistible to many young men.
Wearing a blue dress laced with red inlays and golden frills, was another girl with a head of long dark blue locks. Though not yet of an age as her older sister, she was well dressed and impeccable. Her hair had grown longer from the last time he saw her, and she now walked with a practiced and confident gait. She gazed at him calmly as she made her way behind her father.