Chapter 58:

The Boys' Battle V

Sword Quest

The thoughts that swirled relentlessly around Cedric’s head as he rushed to get a better look at the chaos of unconscious bodies below, attention drawn by the sound of the explosion, were that of his most important days of childhood.

His first day in Master Gambell’s classroom—age thirteen. Most of his twelfth year had been spent bedridden in recovery from the sickness that nearly took his life at eleven; and even at thirteen he was not able to begin his schooling until several months after the rest of the boys.

Entering the classroom, he immediately felt all eyes upon him. Of course, he understood why; the whispers echoing around the classroom confirmed his understanding.

“That’s the boy who had the war sickness and somehow survived.”

“The only child that’s ever survived it, right?”

“Yeah, and they announced him as an Heir candidate right after, I heard.”

“Isn’t that kind of weird?”

“Does that mean his Teuton Will is way stronger than a normal person’s, or something?”

The boy could only offer a polite, yet pitiful smile, as his father had instructed.

“This is Cedric, everybody,” Gambell courteously announced. “He’s a bit late in joining us, but I know that you all will offer him your friendship and support nonetheless.”

Cedric looked down to avoid the gazes of the whispering boys, staring at him like he was a caged animal who didn’t belong in a room with humans. He turned his drooping posture into a slight bow, having realized his behavior had potentially come across as disrespectful.

“I heard there was something weird about his father too.”

“Yeah, something about being excused from fighting in the war, even though he was a strong warrior who was once considered an Heir candidate.”

“I heard that he was an orphan, and that his current father adopted him.”

“Alright boys, that’s enough of the idle chit-chat,” Gambell cut in with a strict, authoritative tone. “Now, where shall we have Cedric sit?”

For a moment, a silence spread over the room that made Cedric want to run away and never return.

“Here, I’ll move up to this empty seat; he can sit with this talkative fool here.” The calm voice came from a thin, blond-headed boy who was in the middle of packing his things and moving to the table directly ahead.

“Well, how thoughtful of you, Mel,” Gambell said with a grin, gently pushing Cedric’s back toward the vacant seat.

“Not really, I just don’t want to sit with the loudmouth anymore,” the noble boy scoffed in response, taking his seat with an annoyed expression.

“Hmph, never mind the grumpy young lord,” the scrappy looking boy added with a jovial look. “You’re Cedric, eh? Have a seat! I’m Quentle, and I’m the next Sword Heir!”

Cedric sat down, perplexed, while the murmurs made their rounds throughout the room once more.

“So, you’re a candidate too, huh? I’ve been fighting with Mel-boy this whole time, so it’ll be nice to have some real competition.”

“In your dreams, idiot,” Mel retorted, turning his torso toward them. “You’re about as talented as the chair under my arse.”

“Oh yeah? Well then, guess you won’t mind me and Cedric training together to beat that spoiled noble arse, huh? What do you think, Cedric?”

“Huh?” Cedric stammered, completely unsure how to respond.

“I’m saying we can be friends and help each other out, that way we can both beat the skinny rich kid!”

“I—I don’t know about beating anybody, but that’s okay with me as long as the school and my father are okay with it.”

As the whispers began to spark again, Quentle spoke with a grin. “Doesn’t matter what people think when it comes to being friends, especially the jealous losers in this room that can’t understand why us three weirdos were chosen over them.”

“Don’t lump us in with you,” Mel cut in. “We were obviously chosen for good reason, unlike you. Listen, Cedric, being friends is one thing, but try not to catch this one’s stupidity. It looks like I’ll have to help with that, won’t I?”

“Uh, sure,” Cedric responded with an awkward smile. While the two boys continued arguing, his small smile grew just a bit wider.

The next memory—all his closest friends were gathered on the beach, enjoying a feast. Galgi and Ralin chugged rum with Tess while Selmy frantically retrieved Quentle from the ocean he’d just been launched into.

Mel looked on, laughing heartily alongside Cedric as they ate his father’s famous potatoes.

“Say, Cedric, do you think this ceasefire will last long?” he asked, his eyes focused on Selmy in the water.

“I wouldn’t know,” Cedric answered with a curious expression, “but it sure would be nice if the war somehow ended instead of starting back up.”

“Yeah, that would be ideal,” Mel replied, bearing an honest smile. “We were only allowed today to do this, but imagine how great it would be to spend every day out here having fun like this.”

“Yeah, if it’s possible it would be like a dream,” Cedric responded earnestly. “Especially if we’re all able to remain friends like this.”

“Mm, but I wonder how much the Heir situation might change things,” Mel said, his gaze shifting out beyond the horizon.

“It doesn’t have to change anything, does it?” Cedric asked in a low voice.

“I wonder,” Mel replied, his face hidden. “No matter what, though, we should make sure we’re able to return here.”

The memories flashed through his mind like lightning as he approached the edge of the cliff. Standing still for a moment, he glanced out toward the beach, before looking over the cliff’s side.

I wonder what kind of expression you were making when you said that, Mel…

And… what about right now…

The battle below came into view, and he immediately beheld a tall Red Wolf soldier baring down on an incapacitated Tess. His eyes grew wide, but before he could survey the canyon in search for the one he most wanted to see, a hand grasped onto his ankle and pulled him off the edge.