Chapter 47:

Al and Hydrick

Sword Quest

Two black-clad siblings raced through the forest, fatigue showing in their worried expressions.

“Well, Sis, why do you think they weren’t at the lake?” Ango asked, brow furrowed and hair bouncing.

“I don’t know, but we’ll just have to keep following the tracks,” Tess answered, intensely eying the path ahead.

“Whatever the case, do you really think those kids are still fighting?”

“There’s no way they aren’t,” she responded. “Like Al and Hyd, those boys have some indomitable wills about them.”

“Al and Hyd, huh…” Ango remarked, his gaze narrowing.

“Yeah,” she answered with a solemn tone. “The boys have had the same look in their eyes lately that those two had nine years ago. Every time I see them, it reminds me of how those two acted back then...”


A seventeen-year-old Tess stood beside her twin brother; whose messy black hair contrasted with her sharp-cut bangs.

The door at the end of the hallway they occupied swung open, and out walked a thin, lanky boy with broad shoulders and brilliant long, blond hair.

“Hey, you two waited for me?” he asked with an energetic smile.

“Yeah, but what were you doing in Valblin’s room?” Tess inquired with a dubious look.

“Oh, it’s nothing much,” he answered, walking ahead of them down the hall. “Just… what would you say if I told you I’m an Heir candidate?”

“What?” Tess asked, her faze frozen with shock. Hydrick answered her with a playful smirk.

“You… you’re actually serious?” Ango demanded, his face contorted.

“Valblin just told me,” he responded with a lighthearted chuckle. “Apparently the chances aren’t that high that it could be any of us, but he says I’ve shown ‘appropriate perseverance’ in my training. That and it seems we’re in need of some positivity with the way the war is going.”

“That Valblin doesn’t hold anything back, does he…” Ango said with a sigh.

“True, but I’d rather him be honest with me,” Hydrick answered, scratching his head modestly. “It’s something I’ll need if I intend to succeed.”

“But that…” Tess muttered, stopping in her tracks. “That’s so great, Hyd. I can only imagine how happy Hedric would be to hear that. You really are chasing after him, aren’t you…?” Her soft voice quivered as she turned to him with a sweet smile, tears welling up in her eyes.

“I told you, I always will be,” he replied, giving her a warm smile in return.

“How cute,” Ango blurted out, walking ahead of them. “Anyway, how is it going to be settled? And who are the other candidates?”

“Oh, that,” Hydrick answered, awkwardly turning away from a blushing Tess. “That’s the one thing he’s not talking—”

“The one thing he won’t talk about is how we’ll decide who it is,” a spry voice sounded from around the hall’s upcoming corner.

“I don’t think we’ve met yet, Hydrick. The name’s Al.” The lively boy appeared in front of them, his thin stature and worn-down uniform giving him an unassuming air, despite his charismatic smirk.

“Ah, Al, another of the candidates—it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Hydrick answered sincerely, reaching his hand out. Al extended his own hand, offering a short chuckle as the two clasped hands firmly.

“That’s the problem, isn’t it?” Al said, gripping his chin with one hand. “We have a month to prepare, but we don’t even know what kind of exam we’re studying for.”

“Yes, it is a bit unnerving, isn’t it?” Hydrick replied with a light chuckle. “Ah, these twins here are Tess and Ango, by the way.”

“He’d really leave that kind of thing to your imagination?” Tess added open-mouthed, regarding Al as if a proper introduction wasn’t needed.

“He’s a real sadistic old bastard, ain’t he?” Al answered her with a playful grin. “What do ya say we try and figure it out together, Hyd?”

“H—huh, Hyd?” Ango inquired, wearing a puzzled look. “That’s what we call him; how’d you know about that?”

“Huh, I just thought of it actually,” the boy cheerfully responded, scratching his head.

“You—you must be a genius, then!” Ango exclaimed, awkwardly pressing his glasses.

“Don’t worry about him, he’s always like this,” Tess followed, incurring a gasp from her brother.

“Haha, but yes, I would like to train together, if you’re willing,” Hydrick cut in with a grin before shifting his gaze out the window. “All the better if we can confirm what it is that we’re working toward.”

“But, isn’t a bit weird for you two to work together?” Ango asked, crossing his arms and tilting his head. “I mean, you don’t know how you’ll even be competing, right? Wouldn’t it be best to keep to yourselves?”

“It really would, at least for the son of the esteemed Valor family, here,” a new voice answered.

The group turned to see a boy strutting toward them from behind Al. His feathered strawberry-blond hair and well-kept uniform matched his obnoxious smirk remarkably well, prompting Tess to scoff at his appearance.

“Ah, Shae,” Hydrick regarded him without expression.

“I mean, it’s one thing to hang around children of mere castle attendants,” the arrogant boy continued, “but to work together with a lowly village commoner on something like the Heirship, it’s a bit disgraceful.”

A shadow came over Al’s face briefly upon hearing his words, before he looked him in the eyes with the same energetic grin as before.

“You must be the Cillavier boy, the final candidate, eh?”

“That’s right,” he answered, purposefully avoiding Al’s gaze. “Of course, it’s a farce of a race, whatever the test may be. You do understand you’re up against two high nobles, right? This one here is the brother of the late Sword Heir himself, and his family is even closely related to royalty. Of course, my father was the highest-ranking general at the time Sword Heir Hedric died and retired as such.”

“You… you really think you can compare your father with the hero of the Molusht War?” Tess demanded angrily.

“That hero was killed by his own ally before the war even ended,” Shae responded, sneering. “Besides, he wasn’t the only hero of that war. Shuant himself could be considered a hero in the story, and my father was just as crucial to our victory as either of them. Not only that, but he drove Shuant’s forces away that day, and brought our ships home safely. Bearing that legacy, I—”

“Who cares?” Al cut in, the corner of his lip curled in confusion. “Am I missing something? I don’t get what any of that has to do with us?”

Tess and Ango snorted with laughter, while Hydrick chuckled through his nose and Shae’s face wore a mixture of shock and disgust.

“He’s right, Shae,” Hydrick followed, taking a step forward. “We are not our fathers, or our brothers. Neither are we our family name, or the legacy behind them. We are simply ourselves, and our legacy is written from where we stand today. That’s why, if Al here became the Heir, it would be due to his being the best man for it, not because of any status.”

Al smirked, nodding at his words, while Tess and Ango grinned in admiration. Shae, though dumfounded, recovered quickly.

“Whatever you say, Valor. It isn’t as if I much care about being the Heir anyway. You two can train together all you want, and I’ll be there to laugh in your faces if I win with half as much effort simply because of my family’s superior Will.”

With that, he sneered as he walked past them down the hallway. The four laughed together, and continued talking until three boys appeared down the hall, calling for Al.

“Oy, Jack, Galgi, Ralin! There ya are!” Al began trotting toward them, before stopping to turn around.

“I look forward to our partnership, Hyd. See you three later!” He exchanged waves with the three and joined his friends with a big grin.

“You got lost, didn’t you?”

“No, Jack, I didn’t get lost!”


“And they actually did train together that whole month,” Ango recalled as the two continued their run through the forest.

“Yes,” Tess replied, her gaze narrowed. “You weren’t around much for it with your studies increasing, but those two put themselves through hell at the behest of Valblin. Constant drills, followed by sparring, followed by even more grueling drills. Something within Hyd changed during that month. Probably Al too.”

“But they became good friends through the process, also,” Ango responded.

“They really did. So much so that I got a little jealous, admittedly. But the day they found out what they were fighting for… it was just like how the boys have been the past few days. Once he told them it’d be a single test to try and pull the red sword, and with one day’s notice… they both suddenly avoided making eye contact and went home to prepare on their own.”

“I wonder what it was about drawing the sword that did that to them, though,” Ango inquired.

“I’m not sure. Maybe because it was something so simple, something that would potentially have nothing to do with their training, and more to do with the things Shae talked about. Because of their uncertainty, those two let the pressure cloud their eyes over completely. And there wasn’t anything I could say to them, either. So, when dawn broke the next day, I hid in the trees as the three of them silently rowed toward the small island…”