Chapter 5:

Volume 1 Chapter 5: A Battle of Ideals

A Battlefield of Swords and Flowers

Only fifteen minutes had passed before the Chief returned home with the requested twenty five guards that would help them during the operation. Surprisingly, all the guards were able to fit into a conference in the Chief’s home. Once there, Knight Andor began to brief all guards in attendance, including me, for some reason, on the details of the operation. Lady Alea was present as well, being on standby in case they needed medical assistance.

The plan was relatively straightforward. First, using the information I had given the Knight Andor, they would head to the location of the fugitive and surround the house he was residing in, twenty men at arms would position themselves all around the building in the hopes of successfully denying or slowing down an escape.

Next, when everyone was in place, Knight Andor, along with the five most skilled guards would breach the building through its front door and head to the second floor where I had told them the fugitive had been renting a room. There they would try to apprehend the fugitive and/or disable him. If he tried to jump out a window or managed to slip away there would be twenty guards outside to slow him down with orders to kill.

Within ten minutes of the meeting being started, all the guards and personnel required were thoroughly informed and prepared for the operation.

“Well, it’s time for you to head home, my boy,” the Chief advised me as he guided me to the door. “Things are about to commence, and, like you probably already know, we can’t have you around when the time comes.”

“Don’t worry. I completely understand. I’m just happy that I had the chance to share my information and that it is being put to good use,” I assured him, putting on the most believable smile I could.

I almost fell sick knowing that I was lying to such a kind and respected man. Also the fact that I was kind of committing treason didn’t help ease my anxiety any less.

He led me out the door of the conference room where we found Sena who the Chief asked to see me out as he slipped back inside. She led me to the front door with ease and care and saw me off with a “See you later.”

Now for step two.

The guards wouldn’t be commencing their operation for another five minutes, at most. It would take them another three to reach the house I had described. That gave us enough time to do what we had planned. And if the guards finally caught onto my deception, they would spend a large amount of time looking for us.

My rendezvous was the northern gate, but to get there I had to go through the market square. Just a bit more people had gone out of their homes to either sell or buy products or just to run errands. Though there was an increase in population on the streets, our plan all took place in the outskirts of town, so there shouldn’t be many witnesses.

That was good. That’s one of the concerns accounted for. I’ll figure out how to not get accused of treason later. Right now, we need to act while we have the chance.

I headed north toward the town entrance. But just before I reached I turned the corner and made my way through a series of alleyways. We couldn’t risk anyone seeing us. By now, guards would probably already be on their way to capture the fugitive.

After walking inconspicuously for a bit, I reached a bend in the alley. I wasn’t too far from the northern gate. All you had to do from here was walk out onto the street and go north for a few meters.

“Is everything set in place?”

Behind me, from the shadows, a quiet whisper asked about the current situation.

“Y-yep.” I knew he would be there but the way he leaned closer to me from behind gave me chills and honestly made me jump. He didn’t seem to register my reaction because he waited for me to elaborate.

“They should be heading out now,” I explained. “That should give us around five to ten minutes before they realize something is wrong.”

“Good,” was his only reply before the fugitive, Ernst, stepped out into what little sun shone into the alleyway.

“Alright,” I started, “the next step in the plan is up to me.”

Setting in motion the next part of our plan, we both walked to the open of the alleyway where it connected to the street that led to the northern gate. But unlike me, who continued onto the road, he stayed behind, careful not to attract any attention.

As for me, I continued north toward the gate. Without passing or catching a glimpse of anyone, I slowly walked closer to the two guards at the gate. Before long, the two guards noticed me pacing forward with no intention of stopping. And once I was a few meters away, one of the guards finally stepped forward.

“Hey, kid,” the guard to the right tried to catch my attention. “You need to turn back. Under the orders from Knight Andor, exiting the town has been made forbidden.”

But even with their warning, I kept walking, slowly bringing up my speed, until I was in a full on sprint.


Both guards, now at attention, unsheathed their swords, ready to block me from continuing any further. But they reacted too slowly and I was able to dash by without being stopped. Now on the run, the guards wasted no time chasing after me. I didn’t run too far before I heard two dry thuds behind me. I turned to find the two guards knocked out on the ground and a man looming over them.

“That was quick,” I commented, impressed at his speed. “You didn’t kill them, though, right?” I asked as I approached Ernst.

“Do you really think of me as a criminal?”

Everyone said so, but…

Regardless, we still had things to—

“Anyway, kid,” he started.

No sooner, though, he gripped the handle of his sword, which now rested on his waist, and pulled it from its sheath, a dry metallic noise ringing out as he did so. He pointed its tapered tip at my head before raising the blade over his head.

“H-hold on,” I let out a quiet plea, completely taken aback by his sudden hostility

But my apprehension did nothing to change Ernst’s cold and listless stare. And in the next second, the shining blade came crashing down toward my head.

An ear piercing sound followed by the screeching of metal rang out right in front of me. After holding my eyes shut for a split second as the sword came for my head, I finally managed to muster the courage to open them once more only to find orange sparks flying through the air. And their origin; a platinum sword that seemed about ready to burst into flames and a long, slender sword.

“Sam, please move back,” cried out a desperate yet soft voice.

I did as I was told and moved out from under the two clashing swords to a safe distance near a tree. From there I watched as Ernst faced off against none other than Lady Liena.

“Sorry I haven’t been around much,” she apologized as she pushed back Ernst with her rapier. Only meters apart, both fighters stood with their swords at the ready, either one ready to jump at the slightest movement from their opponent. “Now, I finally have a chance to speak to you,” she now addressed Ernst with sharp, stern eyes.

“Hmm? You have right talking to me,” he mocked Lady Liena with a smirk. “All you do is follow orders and sit back doing absolutely nothing.”

“But I can’t do anything, can’t you see,” she cried out, her voice quivering a bit. “Just look at yourself and the predicament you are in. What do you think would’ve happened to me if—”

But she was able to finish. At that moment, Ernst’s sword sparked, releasing sprays of embers into the air turning the blade itself orange as if it had just been pulled out from a blacksmith’s kiln. He didn’t waste a moment before he dashed toward Lady Liena, swinging down at her from above his head, his blade moving so fast it just became an orange blur.

She seemed to hesitate for a moment, but with determined eyes she raised her sword to meet her opponents without moving from her position, her blade easily traveling faster than his. And on impact, both blades spewed out crimson sparks that shot into the wind.

Showered in the embers, Ernst spoke.

“You stand and do nothing, but sooner or later you won’t have a choice, Liena. You can either be pushed around and fall to the ground or stand your ground and run forward. But you can’t be idle. You’ve always just turned a blind eye.”

His voice decreased into a whisper as he finished his sentence, but immediately afterward, a desperate cry shot through the air.

“Do you think I want to,” Lady Liena wailed, a single gleaming tear running across her cheek. “I hate it. I always have. I just stand there and look on without saying a word because I know the consequences, and I hate feeling. I hate knowing that if I take matters into my own hands, I’ll just be pushed back and thrown on the ground.”

“That’s just an excuse.”

Maybe I was just too far from the action, but it seemed like Ernst gave a smirk with his rebuttal.

At that sight of it, though, a few more tears streamed down Lady Liena’s cheeks. Her face went red and her eyes showed the characteristics of Ernst’s blazing sword.

With one decisive step forward, Lady Liena pushed Ernst’s blade off of hers, sending him staggering backward. Then without a moment of hesitation she dashed toward her opponent, the tip of her blade aimed at his chest.

Even so, Ernst’s reactions were just as fast and he managed to bring his sword forward, using the flat of his blade to shield himself from Lady Liena’s blindingly quick attack. Her rapier jumped back and above her as it was deflected, but only for a moment.

In the next second, she gained control of her sword and slashed down from above her head.

This time, Ernst wasn’t able to evade in time thanks to Lady Liena’s sheer speed, and because of that, the tip of her blade slashed at his right shoulder. The momentum brought her sword down to her left flank but she spared no time. She followed her momentum, turning her body only to shoot her heel into the center of Ernst’s chest, making him airborne for a few seconds before crashing into the ground several meters away.

The kick seemed more painful than even his slashed shoulder since his grasped futility at his chest, completely out of breath.

“I wish I could just change everything in one day,” she looked on with helpless and regretful eyes, approaching Ernst one step at a time. “But...the sort of thing takes time. If only you had realized that, as well. We could have incited real change.”

Her stride grew shorter as she continued to speak until she lost her determination and her words trailed off into a whisper, halting her advance at her final word.

But in comparison, Ernst stared up at Lady Liena with the same determination she once held. Maybe because she saw the still blazing sparks in his eyes, she averted her gaze, not wanting to see what she let go of so easily.

“That’s just it, Liena. I couldn’t wait. If I did, even more people could die. We are knights, don’t you remember. We protect and fight for our people, not for some arrogant bastard. We both want the same thing. I just couldn’t wait any longer.”

She might not have been looking at him in the eyes throughout the course of his speech, but I could tell that Lady Liena took every word, every syllable of his to heart.

After some thought, she lifted her gaze off the ground, and with the same ever gentle smile I had come to know, she gazed into his eyes, once again finding her determination to fight.

“Then promise me,” she asked, lifting her rapier into a ready position, “promise me that when I’m ready, when I’m finally strong enough to change the world, that you’ll help me.”

Ernst pulled himself up with great effort, wheezing with every movement. Nevertheless, he followed Lady Liena’s lead and brought his sword up, ready to clash once more.

“Okay, then. When the time comes that you need me, I’ll be there, I promise.”

And after the two exchanged smiles, binding their promise with words and sentiments alone, they silenced themselves, each narrowing their sharp eyes, now both filled with boundless determination.

As the wind rustled the leaves above my head and the scent of flowers found their way to my nose, the tension between the two knights only grew.

Here, in a quiet field on the outskirts of town, the town itself nearly forgotten on the edge of a vast empire, two souls made their promise to meet again, not knowing where exactly that would be. And one witness, as if placed there only for the sole purpose of confirming that the event did indeed happen.


And then...

The wavering of a sword.

At that, both knights raced forward, swords drawn back ready to strike. It was almost too fast for the eye to see.

Lady Liena pulled back on her thin blade, honing in on what would surely be a fatal hit. Ernst held his sword at bottom left, it only burning brighter as the milliseconds passed by.

And finally, when they were far enough apart that their arms could touch each other if they tried, their blades crossed, showering the field of sparse flowers in sparks brighter than the sun.

Lady Liena prepared to thrust her blade into her opponent with blinding speed. But with an even quicker attack, Ernst slashed with his sword from bottom left to upper right, clashing with her sword as it did and sending flying into the air.

The momentum from her thrust carried her forward until eventually the two knights switched places. She managed to turn her head around and glimpse at the opponent that had overpowered her. Her expression hadn’t changed from the moment we had first met: a constant, gentle smile.

The rapier that still twirled in the sky bounced the sunlight into my eyes for just a moment. But that was all it took.

The slender blade fluttered down from the heavens, Ernst gently grabbing a hold of it in his left hand. And with a look of guilt written across his face, he directed its point toward his opponent and drove it forward.

She couldn’t do anything at that moment. She was helpless.

The moment the blade tip reached her unarmored body, it pierced completely through her abdomen effortlessly. Showers of dark crimson flared from her back and her stomach, endlessly staining the light blue summer’s dress she had been wearing blood.

It was as if the sky had been painted red. But she didn’t scream, nor did she moan with pain even as she coughed out blood.

After what seemed like an eternity, Ernst loosened his grip on the rapier, as if he had been sapped of all his strength and determination, and Lady Liena fell to her knees with wet thud. And after finally toppling over onto her stomach, her blade was slowly pushed out as she lay prone on the grass, leaving it like a sword in a stone. It didn’t take long for a pool of blood to start to seep out from under her limp body, staining her beautiful skin.

With dull yet desperate eyes, Ernst turned to me. “You mustn’t let her die, kid. That will be your promise to me.”

And with that simple statement, the fugitive sheathed his blade of hellfire and ran north through the blood stained field.

Surely I would never see him again once he passed the mountains and was over the horizon.

“Lady Liena!!!” I cried out belatedly as I ran to her body.

I couldn’t help but wince at the sound the blood soaked ground made when I kneeled down besides her. It only further established just how much blood she had already lost.

Her rapier had pierced all the way through her body but had pushed out a little once she hit the floor, leaving the opening in her stomach free to release blood.

I had no idea what to do. She was bound to bleed out soon, the blood pooling at my knees only made that more apparent. I was useless at that moment. There was nothing I could do, save to pray for her to miraculously wake up.

After I met Lady Liena, I took an interest in magic. I decided to tag along on one of Lia’s session’s with Lady Alea to try and learn a bit of magic, and like Lia had, I chose to start with healing magic. But I had only been taught for three days. The best I could probably do was mend a paper cut.


Even so.

I at least had to try. Even if there really wasn’t anything I could do to save her, I had to at least try. What would she think of me if in the next moment her eyes opened and she saw me, a shivering coward, kneeling over her helpless body, refusing to even try and save her.

Also, whatever reason Ernst had for impaling Lady Liena with her sword, he told me not to let her die. He obviously cared for her, so I had to honor that promise.

After a few seconds of hesitation and anxiety, I cupped my hands over the entry wound on her back. I couldn’t remove the sword for fear that she would only bleed out faster. But if maybe I could slow down her bleeding or somehow manage to stop it completely, maybe, just maybe, someone would find us out here and help me.

I repeated over and over the lessons Lady Alea had heard her teach Lia.

Feel the mana surge from your chest and flow through your arms and out of your hand, and guide it toward your subject.

No sooner than I had recited the lesson in my mind, a very faint green glow emanated from my hands, so fragile that the moment I lost concentration it would fade away. Even with that knowledge, I guided all my energy toward her wound, putting every ounce of will and determination into it.

The dilemma didn’t seem to get any better, though. Her blood was still flowing out at a constant rate with no signs of it slowly down or much less stopping.

No matter how long I tried for, my healing had no effect. That was just the extent of my abilities. I was just a kid who could never even imagine to be on the same level as a knight. I wouldn’t be able to keep my promise, and more importantly, I would let Liena die, someone I had come to respect through only a day’s worth of conversation.

And just as my concentration was about to lapse, I heard multiple thumps on the ground, only becoming faster in frequency as they got closer.

And then:

“Sam!” A distant voice cried out to me.

Those familiar, pleasant vocals, though strained by desperation, were like if god had sent down one of his angels to save me, to save Lady Liena. The mere sound was enough to make my eyes wet with tears.

“W-what happened to Miss Liena?!”

“No time to explain,” I blared out at Lia who had appeared out of nowhere and was sprinting toward me. “Right now I need you to help me heal her.”

By the time I had finished issuing my instructions, Lia was already standing next to me, panting from exhaustion. But her eyes weren’t focused on me. How could they be. Instead, her eyes stared at the thin rapier sticking out from Lady Liena’s back. She stared blankly at the wound, likely in a state of shock from seeing the pool of blood at my knees. She just stood, unresponsively besides the knight’s body until—

“—Lia! Snap out of it,” I finally got her attention.

She’s surely never seen this much blood before in her life, so it was no surprise that she was rendered immobile by the ghastly sight. Even I wasn’t too fond of the sight of a pool of blood. But once she turned to glance at me and my expression, she once again remembered just how serious the situation was.

“R-right,” she stammered as she kneeled down, her knees splashing on the pool of blood, staining the hem of her skirt red.

She moved her hands above the wound, a translucent green glow instantly manifesting itself, one many times brighter than mine showing just how far Lia had come in her studies.

But, it most definitely wouldn’t be enough. I knew she was a quick learner and I believed in her ability to heal small wounds, but this was beyond our abilities combined. But maybe with her here, Lady Liena would receive just a few more minutes, a few more seconds of life, and maybe, a miracle would manifest.

“We just need to keep her alive for a few more minutes,” Lia mentioned with her eyes closed, focusing on her magic.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t worry. Just put all of your focus into healing.”

I did as she commanded, not even mulling over the thought in my mind. With her at my side, I felt as if everything was going to be alright.

So just this once, I was going to blindly put all my faith into her.

But as the seconds went by, I could feel my concentration falter. I could feel the flow of my mana slowly fade. Mana wasn’t in infinite supply. So the best I could manage was weak magic for short periods of time. And I wasn’t sure if I could continue any longer. At any moment, I would be completely and utterly useless.

Out of the corner of my, I noticed Lia's head jerk at a distant sound. Curious, I followed her line of sight. Far in the distance, a figure ran toward us. From the plain brown dress that had become her signature look, I could tell, even from afar, that it was Lady Alea rushing over to us with a pained look in her eyes.

If the appearance of Lia was like an angel’s, then Lady Alea’s was like if god had come down to help us himself.

“N-no way,” I tried to let out but Lady Alea quickly took action.

“Lia, Sam, you both did well. Now let me handle this.”

Unlike Lia, whose shock overpowered her rendering her immobile, Lady Alea was quick and decisive, motioning to us to move aside. Once we did as we were told, with the swift motion of her hand the rapier flew out from Lady Liena’s back and was thrown to the side, all without her not even touching it.

Then as the blood started to seep out from the wound on her back, Lady Alea hovered her hand over it at which point the blood stopped flowing. In fact, the blood started to slowly crawl back into her body.

Slowly but surely, even the blood that had collected on the ground started to move back into her body. After two minutes—but what seemed like an eternity as we watched—a green glow appeared below Lady Alea’s hand and the wound on Lady Liena’s back started to close up. The final streams of blood crawled up her skin culminating at the wound as the tissue slowly healed itself until only drops remained and the wound was finally sealed. Her skin was once again restored to its porcelain-like state in full view through the hole left in her dress.

Lady Alea’s skill was simply unbelievable. I have certainly never doubted her abilities in the past but seeing it in action really made it seem incredible. It clearly displayed just how much more skilled she was compared to us who could only heal cuts and bruises.

After a few minutes we spent watching in awe at the healing magic displayed, Lia belatedly asked Lady Alea, “Is Miss Liena alright, now?”

I had the same question but I was too stunned to ask.

“Yes. After a few days of rest, she’ll be fine,” she informed us, gently turning Lady Liena over and resting her on her lap.

“That’s a relief,” I sighed as I dropped to the ground from the exhaustion my anxiety put me through. The thought of letting Lady Liena die when I was the only one around really drained me and made my legs feel uneasy.

I’m just glad she ended up being okay.

“Now,” Lady Alea started as she carried the unconscious Lady Liena with strength that seemed out of place for a woman nearing fifty years of age. “Now, Sam, you better stay close by. I don’t think you’re a very popular guy in town, at the moment.”