Chapter 9:

A Fateful Meeting

Painted Tale



I woke up in a hospital.

They told me that after the accident, I've spent several days in a coma.

When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by my family.

Mother embraced me, saying that everything will be okay.

While my family celebrated my recovery, I had but a single thought swirling through my mind:

I want to experience hope.

I still can't get rid of the shackles forged by my constant disappointments.

But I will try to take a step forward.

I will take that step on the only path I have.

This time, I will see it through to the end.

I will become a painter.



I wake up feeling strangely nostalgic. My chest is filled with so many different emotions that I can't quite understand.

It was just a dream, and yet I can't help but wonder:

What happened next?

Why did I see that dream?

What is this bitterness that fills up my chest?

It's been six years since the war with The Duchy.

It's been six years since Edward died.

I remember the day when the news arrived.

I began the evacuation of people all over our domain.

Then, Dad arrived.

Only 30 percent of the men came back.

Plenty died in the battle against The Duchy.

However, many more died fighting against the horde.

Since the gorge was surrounded, they had no choice but to attempt to break through the encirclement.

At the cost of many lives, they made it.

The horde didn't pursue.

No, they weren't a horde any longer...

After all, The Leader was already dead.

He was killed by Edward Arklight, the knight of The Kingdom.

Sir Edward killed the griffon, and then... he killed my brother.

A fine knight who people should aspire to.

A real hero that people should admire.

That Edward Arklight murdered my brother. My poor brother, trapped between his pride and ambitions and his desire for mundane happiness.

I can still remember.

I can remember his face as he talks about different countries, his eyes sparkling like that of a kid...

I can remember seeing him look over Mom and Dad's antics with a warm smile on his face. I knew he wanted to experience a relationship just as soothing as theirs is...

I can remember him telling me that he wants to see a painting of mine, drawn in bright colors...

His image never leaves my mind, as well as the last words he left me:

"William... I want you to keep on living. Not just existing but living.

I know you're going to feel betrayed once the news will get to you but still...

Live, William, live. Never give up hope.

Someday, you will find your reason for living, and then... Then you will shine brightly!

Brighter than anyone else! After all, you are William Arklight, the only man I've ever felt jealous of!

William, my dear little brother, become happy!"

He's right. I feel betrayed. Still, I respect his words. I respect them as the last will of my brother. His last thoughts before the hero brutally sacrificed him.

I've tried to keep on moving forward. Tried to find a direction for my life.

And yet...

I have nothing.

I've kept helping my parents with administrative affairs.

These past few years have been harsh.

Many people died in the battle six years ago.

Villagers don't have enough manpower to sustain the harvest.

Many people starved.

Moreover, there is a mass of monsters to the east of our territories.

Their leader might be gone, but they haven't disappeared anywhere.

Of course, lots of them go to our territories in search of prey.

The amount of people dying from monster attacks has reached record numbers.

Our domain is not in good shape.

Arklight family can't even pay the taxes to the capital.

Usually, our title would already be revoked.

It doesn't matter if the problems are caused by outside factors like war and monster activity. If you can't maintain the lands, you aren't fit to be a noble.

However, we were given a leeway.

Our house is the house of the hero who saved The Kingdom.

That's why they can't do anything rash.

Or maybe they genuinely respect Edward's heroic deed?

Who knows.

As I get up from bed, I look towards the side.

There, I see a canvas with my newest work.

Dark purple.

A desperate man, resembling my father, is running, stretching his hands forward.


Surrounding him is a withered field.

Dark blue.

Some distance away are bountiful fields of wheat.

He keeps running towards them, but as he gets closer...

He is unable to reach them as they keep withering.

"..." I stare at it in silence.

For the past few years, I've been watching Dad's struggles.

This... is the result.

I feel a sharp pain running through my chest.


I'm sitting in the living room, listening to the crackling of the fireplace.

Across me is my dad, Richard Arklight.

He's approaching his fifties, and his face has grown more wrinkled.

He has become thinner, and there are traces of exhaustion in his features.

We sit in silence for quite a while before he finally starts speaking.

"William... Your mother and I have been discussing your future..." He says and pauses, gauging my reaction.

I stay silent, waiting for him to continue.

"You've said that you don't want to become a knight, right?"

"Yes, father. I don't want to do anything related to war."

I have declined an offer to become a knight several times.

I don't want a life filled with fighting and violence.

Edward told me to be happy, and I don't think becoming a soldier is the way to achieve that.

As that thought runs through my head, I realize that even though I intend to follow his last request, I haven't made any progress whatsoever. Is that how I respect his wish? Ridiculous.

As I wallow in self-deprecation, my dad keeps talking.

"...So we have decided to send you to the capital. Not as a knight but as a palace attendant."

An attendant? Have they grown tired of me that they want to send me away? I ask myself, even though I understand that they would never do that.

As for the real reasons... I could guess them.

"William, life in the Arklight domain is extremely poor.

Even as nobles, the lack of plentiful harvests means that we can't eat all that well. We're not starving, of course, but compared to ten years ago, the food we get has dropped in quality significantly.

Besides, there is nothing to do in this countryside. The capital can offer you new meetings and experiences. The life there is so much more interesting than here.

I said, you will be an attendant, but you don't have to worry about your salary or anything. People who are educated both in academics and etiquette can only become palace attendants after undergoing special training. They make an exception for you since you're the brother of The Kingdom's hero.

That also means that they won't push you too much. Of course, you will still have to do work, but it shouldn't be too harsh."

"...Why do I have to do this? I thought I will inherit the territories and become the head of the Arklight Household."

"Listen, William. I plan to relinquish the noble title. Managing the territories has become too hard. I'm ashamed to admit this, but my administrative skills aren't good enough. I can't help but feel that if they send someone skillful here, more lives can be saved...

I don't want you to be stuck taking care of starving lands. You can live a far better life in the capital."

"...What will happen to you and Mom?"

"I will stay as a soldier here. The person they're planning to send is a bureaucrat who doesn't even know how to hold a sword. Those lands will officially be directly under the crown's authority. I will be treated as a captain of the guards."

I wanted to say that I refuse his offer... But realized that I have no reason to do so.

If I want to honor Edward's last wish, then being in a place with more opportunities should be more beneficial.

Besides, I also don't want to see my father's sufferings any longer.

That's why I decide to accept his proposal.



I'm standing in front of our manor's entrance. Behind me is a horse-drawn carriage.

My mom and dad are standing in front of me.

"William," my mom begins. "Take care out there. Don't forget to watch your health and write letters. And remember, your father and I love you. If you're ever in trouble, do tell us. We will help you any way we can."

As she says that, she hugs me tightly.

I can feel her warmth and gentleness transmitted to me.

"Yes, mom. Don't worry, I will make sure to take care of myself. After all, I don't want to worry you."

That's right. Mother has gone through more than enough grief for the rest of her life. I need to make sure not to give her any more causes for worry.

I say my goodbyes and get in the carriage.

My long journey begins here.



In the distance, I see a massive city filling up my sight.

Its high walls, towering over the plains, inspire a sense of awe.

Well, I did say that it's massive, but that's only compared to everything I've seen in this world. Compared to some of the biggest cities of my previous one, the capital is quite lacking.

Still, it's dozens if not hundreds of times bigger than the village I grew up in.

I recall my brother's last words. They push me to try to cheer myself up.

Capital, here I go!


I've gone through the gates and found myself in the hustle and bustle of a lively city. It's been so long since I've felt the atmosphere of a noisy street.

I see my destination: the Palace of the Holy Spirit.

As I make my way through the main road, I recall Edward's lessons.

It is believed that the Renoa Kingdom was founded 500 years ago when Alfred Renoa defeated a Monster King called The Sky Terror.

The Sky Terror was a massive griffon, so fast that no arrows could reach him and so sturdy that no swords could cut him.

Alfred was blessed by the Holy Spirit, which allowed him to use sun magic. Sun element is considered mythical by many, and its existence is not confirmed. Anyway, the blessing also allowed him to use strengthening magic and light magic to an incredibly high level.

He defeated the Monster King with a party of his closest retainers and became the founding king of The Kingdom.

The palace was also named in honor of the Holy Spirit.

Its blessing is inherited by the members of the royal family. Although they can't use sun magic, they can utilize the strengthening magic to the highest degree, or so I heard.


When I arrived at the palace, I was greeted by Bernard, the head attendant.

He led me to a room of some sort.

In this room, there is a magic circle in the middle of it.

"Underneath the circle, there is a magical tool. It leaves a magical mark on your body that allows you to pass through the palace's gates unhindered." He explains and orders me to walk into the center of the circle.

I oblige and enter the magic circle.

It lights up, blinding me, and I hear a ringing sound.

In a few seconds, the light subsides.

"With this, you can enter the palace as you see fit. Of course, the guards will still check for the presence of anything dangerous. Follow me. I'll show you your room."

We go to the attendants' living chambers. They're located in a separate wing from the main building.

We enter an empty room.

It's pretty spacious and has a big bed, a closet, and a writing desk.

"Your belongings have already arrived in the palace and will be brought to you by the servants. If you need to use a bath, there is one in the left part of this wing."

Huh, so attendants in this place have servants of their own? I guess that makes sense, considering what I was told.

Though, I did have one question.

"What will my job include?"

He stays silent for a few seconds as if exasperated by my question.

Finally, he replies.

"...An attendant's job includes serving directly under the important officials and nobles, as well as managing the work of the servants and greeting the guests of the palace. You don't have to worry. After all, no one really expects you to do your work well. This is not out of spite. We're all thankful to the hero of The Kingdom and believe it's normal for his family member to get preferential treatment...Your training begins tomorrow. For now, rest well."

I'm starting to get sick of hearing about all this hero stuff.

He has a name, you know.



It's been a month since I became an attendant.

I'm in the palace garden. It's a beautiful place filled with lush greenery.

Trees, flowers, bushes — all sorts of plants overwhelm my senses.

Their color, their smell, their sensation on my skin...

And yet, my thoughts are at odds with this beautiful scenery.

In this month, nothing changed.

They were honest when they told me that I won't have to do anything.

They rarely give me any work. From time to time, I'm given small tasks here and there, but not much more.

By the way, a letter from my family came a week ago. Now, I'm officially no longer a noble. Dad is still considered to be a knight of the kingdom. However, ordinary knights are not regarded as nobles.

Right now, I'm spending my time doing nothing.

One would probably think that it's a blessing, but I disagree.

It feels like torture.

I'm left alone with my thoughts, unable to even throw myself into work.

Just what am I supposed to do?

I still have no idea how to become happy.

I still have no idea how to follow Edward's last wish.

I'm lost.

While I'm having such thoughts, my brush moves along the canvas.

I asked servants to bring it here with my painting tools about a week ago. Since then, I've been spending all my free time here, drawing new works.

Dark blue.

A man wearing an attendant uniform stands...


...On the crossroad of his life.

The crossroad diverges into many paths, and yet...

It's impossible to see what's ahead.


A man in armor, the brightest part of the painting,

Wears a smile on his face

As he pushes the other man forward.

And in the direction he's pushing him...

There isn't even a road.

Only darkness, threatening to envelop him in its embrace.

I look at the painting I've drawn.

It feels like I haven't made a single step forward.


I finally managed to use a lighter hue of blue...

And yet, my future is black.

Suddenly, the peace and quiet of the garden are interrupted by the sound of someone running.

A servant runs in.

"Sir, I apologize for this. I know you're not supposed to do work, but..."

"It's fine, I don't mind. What happened?"

"Lord Farbus came as a guest, but there are no attendants who can accommodate him..."

"I understand. I'll attend to Lord Farbus. You don't have to worry about it. Now, go back to your work."

"As you wish, sir."


I enter the garden once again.

Lord Farbus is the governor of Beria, one of the 4 towns of the Renoa Kingdom. While they are not as big as the capital, 4 towns are still significantly more sizable than the village I grew up in.

You could say Lord Farbus is a part of the highest echelon of nobility.

Attending to him went pretty smoothly.

I was afraid he would recognize me as a kin "of The Kingdom's hero" when I introduced myself, but I was wrong.

Either he didn't make the connection or choose to remain silent about that.

Anyway, I'm back in my abode.

I walk through the garden, making my way to the place where I left the canvas.

That's when I see someone standing near my painting.

Dazzling golden hair streaming down to the waist.

A body, slender and dainty, yet soft and supple.

Her movements, graceful yet sharp, lacking in frailty.

Her eyes, the color of clear sky, enrapturing me.

I'm feeling enchanted as my chest is filled with emotion.

That emotion is not love. It's closer to a feeling I get when I see a beautiful painting.

The kind of painting I've always wanted to draw.

I stare at her in silence.

After some time, she starts talking, her voice like a ringing bell.

"You are an attendant, right?"

I nod.

"I like this painting quite a bit. Do you, perhaps, know who drew it?"

I stay quiet for a few seconds. Then, I answer.

"...Yes, after all, I am the author of this painting."

"...I see."

She stares at the painting for some time and then turns around.

She looks at me and smiles.

"If so, then starting from today, you are my attendant." She declares without the slightest hint of hesitance.

That's how I became the princess' attendant.