Chapter 3:


Sword Quest

After cultural class came lunchtime, which meant a much-needed hour of free time. This was where the boys would split into different groups, going to eat in various places. Some of the noble students would go all the way into HighTown for an expensive meal at a tavern and to try and mingle with the female students, and others would travel the ten minutes into Market Town to buy a cheap meal from one of the many food stands.

Here, Cedric split off from the group, as Mel, Quentle, Farum, Berd, and Kaolo would head for the Market Town stands, while Cedric returned home.

In a hurry, he whipped up a large pot of rice and threw it, along with a bunch of potatoes and onions into a large basket. Wrapping it with a piece of cloth, he headed back out in a light run into Castle Town.

It wasn't because he didn't have money, of course. His father did give him a small, obligatory wage to pay for meals and such. Cedric simply saved that money for other purposes.

Passing the school and the well-developed shopping district, he arrived at the castle. Every day, the sight left him in awe. The tall stone walls, carefully crafted into windowed watch towers, were a thing of beauty, matched by the well-groomed grass and trees on every side of the castle walls. Something about the castle's surroundings always calmed Cedric, partly why he came by every day.

Walking briskly through the castle's outer yard, Cedric avoided the various stationed guards with ease. Arriving at the back corner of the castle, he hopped over a stone ledge on the right of the pathway leading to the castle's back courtyard, and snuck down its hilly side.

Upon reaching the side of the small gate leading into the courtyard, Cedric withdrew a silver coin from his pocket. Flicking it in the air in the direction of the guard stationed at the gate, he continued in a crouch.

Behind him, the guard, without turning his head or body an inch, caught the coin in his left hand. Letting his arm drop in a mechanical motion, he then gave a discreet thumb up with his right hand.

With a smirk, Cedric continued to the point where the guard wouldn't see him if he hadn't already known about him, and jumped back onto the path.

He'd arrived at the entrance to the courtyard, a beautiful grassy paradise lush with various greenhouses and trees. Despite his rank not being high enough to be allowed in, he felt he didn't have to worry about being spotted at this point. The only ones who usually visited the back courtyard in the middle of the day were a group of ten low level soldiers whom he knew well. While checking the heat and smell of his pot of food, he waltzed right on through the fascinating greenery to the middle of the courtyard, a large opening decorated by a manmade pond with mesmerizing fountains at four of its edges. At the circular pond's center lay the courtyard's greatest feature- a magnificently crafted white stone sculpture of none other than the first Sword Heir, holding up the Great Green Emerald in a victorious pose.

Cedric stared into the bold looking face of Garik, which was partially covered by his parted mid length hair. Water splashed onto the sculpture's stone feet, coming in an arch from the fountains. As the water splashed, small drops of water bounced onto the face and arms of the fake Garik. Normally, Cedric would gaze admirably at this site. Today, something unexpected flashed before his eyes as he looked on.

For a moment, the sprinkling water appeared scarlet red, as if blood was slowly splattering all over the stone Garik's body.

This is what it must have been like…

Shaking his head free of the illusion, Cedric trotted over to the fountain's stone ledge, where the group of around ten soldiers casually lounged about.

"Hoy, Cedo, You made it!"

"Hey there, Captain Ralin."

"Ah, Cedric. Welcome back."

"I'm back! Good afternoon, Captain Galgi"

-Their usual greeting, something they'd picked up over the years.

"Haha, I told you to quit calling us Captain, Cedo! It's embarrassing, we're only captains of our five man Go."

This was the harsh truth, after all. The two were named the leaders of their respective Go, a five-man squad of infantryman that stuck together tightly on the battlefield for the sake of keeping formations in order.

"Even then, you're still captains, so I should be respectful as a student!" Cedric replied cheerfully.

Galgi chuckled, shaking his head.

"Anyway, let's dig in. Hey Beidin, Peter, Roz, Jean, Filipe, Esca, Brita, Simon, potatoes and onions sound good?"

"Uohhh~!" the men that fought alongside Galgi and Ralin cheered, opening the big basket and dividing the plentiful portions evenly.

Cedric sat down on the fountain's ledge, and began to eat his own portion of food.

The men sat around leisurely, breaking off into idle chatter amongst themselves, while Galgi and Ralin sat down next to Cedric, grinning.

"Seriously, Cedo, the food from your place is always the best!" The tall and burly Ralin spoke with his mouth full, his wild hair bouncing to and fro.

"Well at the least, it isn't any surprise that Gadric Cintog has been the castle's personal vegetable dealer for years," the smaller but well-built Galgi said in his usual matter-of-fact tone, a way of speaking that had always interested Cedric. He'd always thought it sounded like he would say everything in earnest, which matched his serious demeanor, including his neatly combed hair-always to the right side.

"Yeah, Cedo's dad is pretty great! Too bad Cedo won't be taking the family business over, what with being the next Sword Heir and all!"

"Ha? No, that isn't-"

"Don't worry, me and Galg will take over for ya when the time comes! We're only eight years older, so we'll be around for a while!"

Galgi chuckled with his mouth full of water, waving his hand in disagreement.

"Hah, come on, it isn't like it's anywhere close to being decided yet."

"It may as well be as far as we're concerned, Cedric," Galgi warmly put as he patted his chest while he coughed.

Cedric smirked, shaking his head while Galgi continued with an even more serious look.

"Always remember, the Galgi and Ralin squads will always have your back."

"UuohHH!!" The men all cheered, raising their glasses.

Cedric looked away, his smirk turning into a genuine smile.

"So, uh…anything new happening with the Wolverines?"

"Ah, not really. It's just one night-time bombardment after another," Galgi replied, sighing.

"Yeah, and we're a part of the oh-so-special infantry that gets to battle it out on the beach, in between all the cannon fire," the bulky Roz added.

"Haha, but lately we've been rackin' up a lot of points!" Ralin hollered merrily. "That northern beach is a popular target, but the Wolverines need to learn to wake up real early to get one over on us."

"But Captain, you have a harder time waking up then anyone I've ever-"

"We're a brick wall defense force I tell ya! And today we got us some food from Cedric's farm in our bellies, so we're gonna be even more unbeatable than usual."


"You'll never learn how dangerous it is to say things like that out loud, will you Ral?" Galgi put with a smirk.

"HA. The only flag we'll see tonight is a burnt Wolverine flag …Or a white flag!"

"Uh, Captain, a white flag could be ours too, when you put it like-"

"Brick wall squad, uohhhH!"


"So, Cedric, how'd morning session go?" Galgi asked, shaking his head at Ralin.


Cedric explained the intense discussion of the Heir's story.

"Haha, sounds just like you and Mel!" Ralin blurted out.

"Hmm, Quentle on the other hand…"

"Huh? What about Quentle?" Cedric had barely caught Galgi's murmur.

"Ah, just…I'd have expected him to agree with you, as passionate as he is."

"Quentle is a weird kiddo, isn't he Cedo?"

"Hahh..I guess I was a bit surprised by it, too. I mean, you two are pretty alike, after all," Galgi scratched his head in curiosity as he said this.

"We are? I don't really see it though," Cedric answered with furrowed brows.

"Yeah, I've always thought it was odd that you and Quentle were such good friends, since you're alike in a lot of ways! Usually people with similar attitudes and goals are enemies, not best friends."

"Yeah, and you even look like you could be brothers, or cousins," Ralin added.

"Haha, I never really thought about all that, I guess."

"But ya know, I wonder if you'll be able to stay friends once you become the Heir, Cedo."

"Even though it could be him just as easily as it could be me..." Cedric said as he wore a slightly embarrassed smirk.

"Well then hurry and go pull the Red Sword before that sneak gets to it! Blacksmiths have the special power of wielding things normal people can't."

The three of them laughed as they ate, carrying on like this until Cedric had to return to the schooling center.

After attending a rigorous physical training class with Master Feng, who was a fanatic when it came to intense obstacle courses, Cedric made his way into the darkest, most unvisited corner of the building- where his daily personal training class took place.

"Come on in, young Cedric, you don't have to knock every time, you know?"

Cedric opened the old worn down door slowly, fearing as usual that it might break if he wasn't careful.

"I'll presume you're warmed up?"

"Ah-yes, Master Valblin."

The old man, whose monstrous frame and tacky robes never seemed to match his long grey hair and beard like that of an official, swung a wooden sword repetitively at the air without looking Cedric's way.

"Were you adequately pushed to your limits today?"

"Yes sir, Master Feng took much care in throwing ice water on me anytime I'd look to be slacking even a little, so I was able to beat even Geraint and Jorge this time," Cedric answered with a stone face and thumb up.

"Ohhohoho, what a splendid subordinate young Feng has turned out to be, despite his inexperience as a teacher. It's thanks to him you've gotten to be so scrappy and wildly aggressive."

"But sir, isn't Master Feng already in his thirtie-"


"Yes, sir, a mere baby such as myself hopes to someday be like the young Master Feng."

"Hmmm, I'm going to have fun knocking that cheeky tone out of your mouth, hoho."

"But sir, I believe my tone is as respectful as ev-"

"Shut up and grab your weapon already, will ya?"

Not wasting anymore time, Cedric took his vest off and retrieved a wood sword off the rack on the wall, and took a few practice swings.

Stepping out into the middle of the spacious training room where they did battle daily, Cedric waved the sword out in front of himself, his demeanor completely changed.

"Ohoho? A scarier face than usual, eh? I'm afraid your scary face won't make up for your lack of power, hoho."

Ignoring his taunt, Cedric shot in on Valblin's left with a low stance and firm, angled grip on the wood sword. His deliberate lunge looked sure to score an undercutting strike.

A second before contact, the old man twisted away, delivering a deflecting swing with one hand.

Still twisting, the old man shifted his momentum to his right foot and swung his left leg high as Cedric staggered from the counter.

Cedric barely saw the incoming blow, and could only watch as Valblin's foot struck the middle of his back.


Flying forward, Cedric managed a sloppy front roll to keep from face planting.

Valblin was deceptively quick despite his overwhelming size and strength, and exceptionally skilled at masking his attacks like this. The man had a very refined, technical precision to go along with his power. He was simply too good at straight counters and overpowered offensive blows, so coming at him head on was out of the question.

Due to this, Cedric's strategy never changed: dart at the old man from the side, striking at wild angles in search of a blind spot.

He had to work ten times harder than he would against Mel or Quentle to land a strike that merely equaled the output of Valblin's. Most of those strikes would fail to give him any sort of advantageous position, and even when they did the old man would effortlessly knock his sword away at the last second.

Still, he would press on, with the thought that if he got inside his range of comfort, he could land at least a sidelong blow.

His persistent attacks continued, yielding no result yet again. He began to tire, body throbbing from Valblin's stinging counter attacks. Sensing that the session would end soon, whether by time constraint or his body giving out, Cedric went on one last wild attack.

Feinting to his left, he streaked by the old man's left side once more, leaving space enough to steer clear of any counters. Executing a diagonal slash that slightly deflected Valblin's sword downward, Cedric continued his flight around the back of the man.

Knowing the old man's superiority in a standup fight, Cedric then tried something insane. He'd somehow gotten the inch he needed to execute his idea , as Valblin seemed to react a bit late to his circling move by swiveling about with his sword at low guard.

Cedric had been working exceptionally hard at doing one thing: slowly backing the old man into the corner of the room.

Instead of turning around to attempt a futile back stab, Cedric continued toward the wall, and leapt up with all his strength.

Kicking sideways off the right wall, and then making to kick off the left like a distorted stair step, he contorted his body to look down at Valblin, his sword gripped and ready.

As he kicked off the left, however, his left foot slightly slipped, decreasing his outward momentum.

He looked with bared teeth down at the old man, thinking he might still be able to land a glancing blow across his right shoulder.


Of course, his expectations betrayed him. The old man simply couldn't be caught off guard that easily.

Sidestepping the sword, Valblin reached his left arm out, and grasped onto Cedric's wrist.


With no time to think, he was pulled out of the air, and thrown directly into the skyward elbow Valblin had just raised.

His stomach felt like it was going to burst, and all the air seemed to escape from his body all at once.


He immediately dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes, where he curled up, gasping for air.

"Ohhohoh, well now, that ought to teach you not to ever do something so stupid again, eh?"

"Kuuuuuughhhhhh, Uuuuughhhhhhh, Kuuckkckkkkkhhh?"

The blow had left him in a pitiful pile. Once he'd finally found some air to take in, he started dry heaving so hard the blood vessels in his face popped one after another.

"You understand, do you? That trying something flashy like that on a real battlefield is the quickest and easiest way to get yourself killed?"

"Hgeeeeessgsshhhh ShiiiIhhhhRrrHhhh-"

"Hoh! Good, now never present yourself so desperately before me again! This isn't the way your father taught you."

With that, Valblin hung his sword up, dumped the large basin of water he always prepared over Cedric's head, and made for the door, shutting it with a very low, indistinct sigh while his eyes remained forward.

After some time, Cedric finally recovered, and drug himself to the wall where he slumped over.

"Hahhh, hahhh, that old bastard…I swear… I'm gonna kick his ass…so hard…one day…seriously... He doesn't even realize… I resort to stunts like that because… attacking him is… impossible."