The Husband and Hero
The shaking of the wooden carriage makes it impossible for any type of rest. Rain gently grazes the ground around the carriage and the smell of morning dew is flourishing the air.
Making his way to the front of the carriage, Crowriff peeks his head outside to see the vast kingdom around him. His eyes lit up as he hears the pleasant sound of a farmers’ market taking place. As he glances in every direction, his insecurities and worries begin to fade away.
Crowriff: “Is this the Kingdom of Robal?”
Without looking towards the driver, Crowriff calls out to him. A middle-aged man wearing civilian clothing sits at the front of the carriage with his hands firmly grasping the rope connecting the horses. On the top of the mans’ head is a straw hat that has clearly been worn for quite sometime; it's been very well used.
Driver: “This is Robal alright’. It’s always a sure shocker the first-time people see it.”
Further down the street, children can be seen playing with a tethered ball along with men and women peacefully eating outside. It doesn’t take long to notice that some of the villagers have deformities, injuries, and physical disabilities.
Crowriff: “So are all these people here originally from Frostala?”
The driver shakes his head back and forth matching the pattern of the horses’ gallops. He lets out a raspy chuckle before replying to him.
Driver: “Not everyone. Robal has been around a lot longer than one might suppose. Some of these people were born here. But all of the originals were brought here from Frostala. Ain’t it disgraceful?”
Crowriff looks forward towards the path the driver is taking him. His eyes beam brightly as he sees the Kingdom’s palace coming closer into view.
Crowriff: “It’s strange.”
Crowriff glances down at the street again before the children run off in a different direction out of his point of view.
Crowriff: “To see a kingdom where everyone is so much different…it feels strange.”
Driver: “Do you not like it?”
Crowriff smiles slightly as he lifts his head.
Crowriff: “I like it more than I thought I would.”
At the center of Robal's royal palace, maids, butlers, and guards can be seen rushing around carrying all sorts of things ranging from food to blocks of iron and steel. The inside of the palace looks more like that of a city hall; the linens are ones common to peasants and the treasury pieces are closer to family heirlooms than royal figures.
Pondering into the building, Crowriff finds himself greeted by the palace’s head maid Edgar. Edgar is dress in a cutesy attire that doesn’t fit his masculine structure; his facial hair also clashes against his general look.
Edgar: “Greetings! You must be Sir Crowriff!”
With a wandering eye, Edgar smiles brightly.
Edgar: “I can see why our Queen wanted to recuse such a hunk of a man like yourself!”
Embarrassed by Edgar’s sudden comment, Crowriff places his hand over himself as though to cover up more.
Edgar: “Hmm not a big talker, are you? Well! That’s a OKAY! You see, I’m a big talker myself. Somedays I can go on and on talking to myself.”
Crowriff: “Why did the Queen want to see me?”
Edgar: “AH, AH, aH! You will find out soon enough. I don’t like to spoil the surprises.”
With a look of eagerness, Crowriff finds himself conflicted with the person in front of him. A personality like Edgars’ is hard to come by. Huffing and puffing about, Edgar finally let’s out a big sigh.
Edgar: “Now listen my friend, if the queen isn’t all that interested in you, that’s OOOOkay. You have other people-people who are very close by- that would be interested.”
Wearing a smug grin on his face, Edgar looks up at Crowriff and flirty winks at him. Before the room can become any more uncomfortable, Queen Shinkyo makes her entrance.
Shinkyo: “Edgar, that is enough teasing. Sir Crowriff please forgive me for my maid's behavior.”
Pouting, Edgar begins to make his way out of the center room. Placing her eyes into his direction, Shinkyo looks up at Crowriff with a big smile.
Shinkyo: “I hope your travels were comfortable.”
Awkward silence and the sense of tension builds up in the room as more time goes by with anyone speaking. Finally, breaking the silence, Shinkyo begins to speak.
Shinkyo: “I understand that you must have a lot of questions. I invited you here today to ask you some questions of my own as well…it can be quite unsettling to speak about everything out in the open, so I would like to suggest to move this conversation to a more private arrangement.”
Despite Crowriff’s build up wall, Shinkyo is still wearing a giddy smile on her face. She looks as though she is thoroughly enjoying herself. Her expressions on her face continue to confuse Crowriff greatly.
Crowriff: “I would greatly appreciate it.”
Shinkyo: “Perfect, then please follow me.”
With a twirl and a sway of her cape, the queen begins to lead the two. In this moment, she looks more like her own age.
A very colorless dull room is illuminated by the sunlight peeking through. The smell of fresh citrus and powdered sugar from a variety of sweets fills the air. Despite the coldness between the two, the calmness from the room makes the tension begin to ease up.
Sitting down at a white wooden table, Crowriff finds his mouth watering at the amount of food in front of him. On the other side of the table sits Shinkyo. She is loosely grasping a cup full of milk and sugar and a little bit of tea.
Shinkyo: “Sir Crowriff, I know this is late, but welcome to my humble Kingdom. My people and I have been anticipating your arrival.”
Sending her gaze over to him, the queen becomes startled at the sight of Crowriff scarving down food.
Shinkyo: “I am glad to see you like the sweets I have prepared.”
Taking another big gulp, Crowriff reaches for another sweet but stops himself.
Crowriff: “I cannot be won by sweets.”
Shinkyo: “You are a man. You are not a thing to be won. And I have no intentions of winning you over.”
Crowriff squints his eyes at her while reaching for a blueberry muffin.
Crowriff: “Then why did you go through the effort to collect me? I understand that you ‘recuse’ the people thrown away...but in the middle of war what was the reasoning to take time to come recuse someone you know nothing about?”
Unwrapping the muffin, Crowriff continues to indulge in his stress eating.
Shinkyo: “Ah! That’s an easy question. It’s because you’re one of my favorite characters!”
Dumbfounded, Crowriff stops eating the muffin and pounders how to respond to such an obnoxious answer. Shinkyo looks up at him. She is beaming brightly with a very pleased look on her face.
Shinkyo: “Oh…I apologize perhaps that was quite confusing...Oh! My men and I have had our eyes on you for a very long time. Yes! You were someone I truly wanted to stand beside and it’s hard to get General Birch to like anyone too. So when he requested that I save you, I couldn’t resist.”
Crowriff: “General Birch?”
Giving off a satisfied look, Shinkyo places her hands tighter around her cup.
Shinkyo: “You know him better as Sir Erebus. He is my head knight, and if I may add, an excellent spy.”
Crowriff: “I see…so when he told me recuse was on his way, he meant you?”
Shinkyo gently nods her head as she takes a sip of her tea. Letting out a frustrated expression, Crowriff clenches his fist into a ball.
Shinkyo: “When he returns after the war, you may lecture him all you want. I am sure he is preparing for it as we speak.”
Crowriff: “How do you know he will return back?”
The bright beaming smile she has been wearing fades from her lips and turns into a neutral serious grin.
Shinkyo: “Because the Kingdom of Robal will win this war.”
Crowriff: “But how can you possibly be sure? There are so many factors and just comparing your numbers to Frostala, you are severely outnumbered.”
Shinkyo: “I know we will. After all, just as you said, war is not decided by just one factor. But one factor can completely win the war.”
Shinkyo places her hands together and corrects her posture to have her back straight up. With a very genuine and almost pleading face, Shinkyo opens her lips.
Shinkyo: “Have you ever heard the phrase reincarnating?”
In utter disbelief, Crowriff swallows hard. Despite his disbelief, her pleading eyes makes it hard to angry.
Crowriff: “Of course. But what does that have to do with this war?”
Shinkyo: “It has everything to do with this war.”
Bringing her hand to the edge of her chin, Shinkyo dresses herself in a confident smile.
Shinkyo: “If you will allow me to humor you Sir Crowriff, let me tell you a story. You may call it all nonsense after I’m done. Maybe there’s the off chance you’ll believe it. But regardless how you feel, this story is the truth.”
Uncomfortably, Crowriff agrees to her request.
Crowriff: “Tell me it.”
Shinkyo: “Then let us begin my story. The story of Shinkyo Bloodsworth and Eri Kuji:”