Hey guys!! Astraea here!!!
The narrator for the next story is still on his vacation, so I will just tell you a story about the past for a bit…
It was a really old story about someone we already knew. Fufufufu… are you guys already curious??
Then, let’s begin…
It all started on that sunny day…
Tap tap tap tap
A middle aged man, that looked around 40 years old, was walking back and forth in front of a brown door. His face looked really fearless, but at the same time, dignified. His eyes were sharp just like a sword. And his body was tall and muscular like a bronze statue. Over his brown short hair, was a golden crown with a carving of a sword in the middle of it.
His name was Joseph Knightley, the 41st Emperor of Knightley Empire, the biggest and strongest kingdom of the Four Human Kingdoms.
This man, the one who was called the strongest human being in the Holy continent with his whole thousands of knights behind him, was walking with a really fast pace in front of the door while looking at the ground and sometimes stealing a glance at the unmoving door beside him.
“Why does it take so long??” grumbled the nervous King.
“Your Majesty, the Third Empress went inside only 30 minutes ago… It takes time to birth a child…,” said a golden armored Knight behind him.
“Of course I know about that George! It’s not my first child! But Sarah’s body is already weak, I’m just afraid that something bad will happen to her and her child!!” said Joseph as he gnashed his teeth because of impatience and anxiety
“Don’t worry Your Majesty, we have the most trusted professionals in childbirth and healing behind that door. Nothing will happen to the Third Empress and her child.”
“I really hope so. If anything went wrong and they failed to save her, then I will behead them personally…,” said Joseph as he clucthed the sword hilt on his waist.
“Dear!! Don’t speak such negative thinking about a woman that is currently giving a birth!! Just pray to the Goddess that she will be fine and her child will be healthy…,” said a woman that sat on a sofa in that room.
“Uuh…You are right Mary… I am sorry, I was just a bit nervous…,” said Joseph as he released his hand from his sword.
That woman was Mary Knightley, the first wife of Joseph and also the Royal Empress of the Knightley Empire. She had a really beatiful, long black hair. Her face was as beautiful as the moon in a summer night. Her skin was as white as the first snow in the winter. And her body was so alluring that you wouldn’t believe that she has already given a birth once.
Mary just smiled at Joseph and walked to him slowly. She put both of her hand on his cheek and said, “My lovely King… I know how much you love and worry about your families, it’s normal for you to be nervous, Sarah’s health has never been so good since she was young. But all of the people inside, love that little kindhearted girl too…so just relax. Anna is inside with Sarah as well, she will tell us if anything happened.”
“You are right Mary… I will just hope for the best…,” said Joseph as he grasped Mary’s hand and gazed at the brown door.
Two hours passed…
The nervous king had stopped walking back and forth and already started to practice swinging his sword. The General with the golden armor and the Royal Empress just shook their head seeing their King’s silly action and waited patiently for the door to be opened.
Four hours passed…
The General started to walk nervously like the King, while the King already rolled on the floor and grumbling. The Royal Empress bit his lip in impatience as she looked at the brown door, she wanted to check inside the room but afraid that she will disturb the labor process.
Then six hours already passed…
Jospeh already had a really pale face as he imagined all the bad things that could happen to his wife that was currently giving a birth. But then suddenly…
A baby’s cry was heard from behind the door. Joseph jumped and slammed the brown door open. Inside the room, were lots of people, surrounding a small bed, where a lovely, beautiful, small-statured woman, with small eyes that looked like a thin crescent moon, was weakly lying down. Her face was looking really pale as she just spent every single of her energy to give birth.
“Don’t get so noisy Joseph!! I am trying to get some rest here!!” shouted that short haired girl to the King, angrily. However, her shout was so weak that people couldn’t hear even a single hint of anger in it.
Joseph’s face paled as he saw his wife’s weak condition. “Sarah!! Are you okay?”
“Who do you think I am Joseph? If I can’t even give birth to your child, then I won’t have the qualification to be your wife, do I?”
“You will still be my wife no matter what happened Sarah… I love you not because of something so trivial like making a child, you know?” said the King as he sat beside her lovely hardheaded third wife. He looked at her with a really worried face as he caressed her cheek.
She just smiled as she spoke his dear husband’s name softly, “Joseph… I’m really okay…”
“Sarah!! Where’s the child??” shouted Mary from behind.
“The child is with me big sister Mary. It’s a boy!” said a woman from behind the bed. That woman, that was as beautiful as Mary the Royal Empress, with her blonde wavy hair held a really small baby in front of her big chests. She was Anna, the Second Empress of Knightley Empire.
“A boy?! Finally!! B-But…he is so small…I-Is he really okay?” asked Mary to the midwives that helped the Third Empress on the labor process.
“He is healthy for now Your Highness, only his body is a little bit weak. His weight is lighter than a normal baby, he will need lots of nourishment to become healthier,” said the oldest looking midwife.
Joseph and Mary was startled as they thought that the future King’s candidate for the strongest Empire in the world was born weak and small. “I-I am sorry Joseph… I-If only I was a bit stronger…, then this boy surely will be healthier as well… It was my fault…” Sarah, that acted strong in front of Joseph before, started to cry out as she saw a bit of dissapointment in his face.
Joseph shouted as he realized that he had hurt his wife that gave birth to his child in hardhip, “NO! It’s nobody’s fault! My child will be strong no matter how he was born! Just look at his eyes, he got your eyes Sarah, so he will be as strong hearted and heard headed just like you in the future!!” Joseph hugged Sarah tightly.
“Ehehe…silly husband…I don’t know if you’re praising me or mocking me…” said Sarah as she laughed with teary eyes.
“Don’t bully little sister Sarah, Joseph!! She had lost lots of blood to birth this boy for you!!” shouted Anna to Joseph.
“I’m really sorry Sarah…” Joseph caressed Sarah’s hair over and over again.
“I really love you Joseph… I was jealous of my sisters when they gave birth to your daughters… I want to have a child with you as well… Now my wish has been granted by the Goddess… so I am currently really happy…” Her teary face was already changed into a really beautiful smile filled with love and happiness.
“Sarah… I love you too…” said Joseph to Sarah. Then he felt a nudge from his side, Mary was poking his back with a puffy cheeks. “I love you and Anna as well… You three are my wives… I will love you and protect you equally…,” said Joseph as he gazed at his three incomparably beautiful wives while smiling. He was a strong and dignified Emperor, but at the other side he was a really lucky husband as well, his three wives were really beautiful, and loved him very much. The three never argued with each other, it was like they were real sisters that married the same man, even if they were arguing, it was only about who loved their husband the most. Every single man in the empire was never jealous of his power, they were instead really jealous of his luck in woman.
“I-It’s not like I don’t know that!! I-I just want to ask the boy’s name!!” said Mary to hide her jealousy and embarassment.
“Okay…okay…I believe in you Mary…,” Jospeh just smiled and nodded as Sarah and Anna chuckled when they saw their older sister jealous face.
“A name huh… Sarah…, what do you think?” asked Joseph.
“Dear Husband! Don’t tell me you haven’t picked up a name for the child?!” shouted Sarah furiously.
“”Joseph!!!”” shouted Anna and Mary as well.
“I did!! I did!!” lied Joseph akwardly. He furrowed his brows and expressly thought up some names, ‘I was too concerned about their condition that I forgot to think up some names. Ugh, come on Joseph!! You can do it!! How hard it is to think up a good name for a king?? Sh*t, it really is hard!’
10 Seconds passed…
“””Joseph…””” His three wives glared at him with really cold eyes.
Cold sweats started to fall from Joseph’s body. Beside the door, General George just shook his head seeing his helpless King surrounded by his ferocious wives.
Joseph’s mind was really muddled, ‘How come thinking up a baby’s name is harder than thinking up next year’s budget plans?? A…B….no…F…M…Y…Maybe…Z?? Is there a king named Z yet?? Yes! Let’s make it Z!’
“I already thought up a name long ago!! If it is a girl I will name her Z…z-z-zephyr!! Yes!! Zephyr!!” he shouted and nodded continuously.
“Okay…so…what will you name it, if it is a boy?” asked Sarah as she smiled at him coldly.
“A boy so… Z-z-z-z-z-z-zedediah!!! Yes!! His name from now on shall be Zedediah Knightley, the first son of Joseph Knightley!!” he shouted to the sky while clenching his fist.
Sarah just chuckled as she saw her husband’s panicked behavior. She already knew from when he came in, that he was really concerned about her safety, so she didn’t care if he had already thought up a name or not, she just wanted to tease him a bit. “Big sister Anna, let me hold little Zed…,” said Sarah as she put her hands to her son’s direction.
“Don’t move your body too much Sarah…you still need to rest,” said Anna as she gave Sarah her child.
“I’m fine… look Joseph…he is our son…I hope he will become as handsome as you when he grow up…,” said Sarah as she tickled the young Zedediah’s cheek with her finger.
“Ahahahaha! Of course he will!!!” laughed Joseph as he saw the little Zedediah’s smiling face.
And that was the birth of our Zedediah. The first prince of the mighty Knightley Empire. The son of the third Empress and the 41st Emperor, Sarah and Joseph Knightley. He was destined to be the 42nd Emperor as he was the first in line in the throne succession. He will be the Emperor, or to be more accurate, he should be…
Just like what the midwives told them, little Zedediah was a really weak baby. He would barf out half of the milk that was fed to him, whereas his mother Sarah could only gave him not so much milk because of her weak body. They already tried to gave him another mother’s milk but he would just barf it out like he knew that it wasn’t her mother’s. Joseph often saw and heard his wife’s cries at the middle of the night, Sarah always blamed herself about Zedediah’s condition, and Joseph would always hugged and calmed her down.
Thankfully, Zedediah still grew up normally just like any other baby. He was sick a lot, but none of it was life-threatening. It was also because after 12 months he finally wanted to be fed with normal food aside from her mother’s breast milk that already started to diminish. The King already told his chefs to made the healthiest food a baby could take, but Zedediah could only eat once a day, or else he would throw up. This made his parents heads ached a lot.
Sarah’s sadness only worsened her condition even more, she now stayed on her bed all day hugging the little Zedediah on her lap. She was sad that Zedediah was weak and sickly, but she never concerned about his future as a king nor did she regret to give birth to him, she was just really worried that he would die if this kept up. She would cry and cry as she spoke to the little Zedediah, “My son…Zedediah…be strong…be strong for your mother…for your father…I won’t die before you grow up…so grow up strong…just like your father…strong enough to protect the one you love…” She already knew that her life won’t be a long one, but she wanted to life at least until her son would be strong enough to protect himself. Joseph would often went to her room to check on both his wife and his son, his heart ached everytime he saw his wife’s condition worsened. But he couldn’t blame his son either, it was nobody’s fault, it was just the destiny playing a little game on them.
Zedediah was now already a young six year old boy. His body was weak, he often got fever and digestion problems, but he was a really smart boy, he could already read and write fluently, and he already remembered the contents of books from the castle’s library. His Mother and Father were really happy and proud to see Zedediah’s brilliant mind. But because of his smart mind, he too realized his own position.
He was weak, but he, too, was destined to be an Emperor of the most powerful Empire in the world, he realized that this responsibility was really heavy, and he need more power to do it. His body was weak, so he requested from his father a magician instructor and not a knight instructor. If he couldn’t become a strong knight, maybe he could become a strong magician, so he wanted to learn magic from young age. King Joseph was endlessly happy to hear his son’s desire of wanting to be stronger. He ordered General George to take some of the smartest and most talented magician from the army that were good in teaching. Zedediah’s magic training began at six years old and ended when he was seven years old. It was not because of he was a genius at magic, but because he was once again played by the destiny.
Zedediah was incomparably NOT talented in magic. At first when he was tested on his Magic Element affinity, the teachers already shook their head in disbelief, Zedediah was only a Single Element Magician. His affinity was Fire Magic, it wasn’t really that bad, a Single Element Magician could still be strong, but Zedediah’s magic affinity was really really bizzare and strange. He could only use a single spell, the basic spell of Fire Magic, the [Fireball]. Then, for the whole year after that, the teachers tried lots of different method to teach him the other Fire Magic spells, but, alas, it was useless. Zedediah just couldn’t bring out his mana when he chanted the other spells beside [Fireball]. His teachers gave up, a case like this was never heard nor seen in the history, Zedediah was the first Single Spell Magician in the history of magic…
Zedediah fell in absolute sadness. A seven years old kid, with a sickly mother that always blamed herself, and a father that is a mighty emperor that he couldn’t ever reach in his whole life. He was too weak to become a knight, and he was too untalented to become a magician, it was as if his destiny was being played by the god. People that knew about his uselessness mocked him secretly, he knew about all that, but just kept silent as he realized that what they said was really the truth. He didn’t know what else to do, he just went to the library and read the book in silence everyday, hoping that he would find a way to become stronger.
Zedediah never cried, not even once. He knew that, if her mother found out that he cried even once, then she would start to blame herself and her health would drop faster and faster. So he would just immerse himself in his books until evenings came, and then went back to sleep.
His father heard about Zedediah’s behaviour from his son’s guards. He was slightly startled because he heard that his son didn’t look sad at all, and just read book everyday in the library.
On the next day, he went to see Zedediah.
“Guards. Wait outside!” commanded Joseph as he stood behind Zedediah that was immersed in his book.
Zedediah was startled to hear his Father’s sound from behind. “Y-Your Majesty!” he shouted respectfully as he kneeled in front of his father. His Father was the strong and mighty Emperor while he himself was only a weak lowly prince. He didn’t even dare to call himself his son as he was afraid that it would insult his father to have a son this weak and untalented.
Joseph slightly frowned. “Call me father! And don’t kneel to me! My son kneel to no one except their own birth mother!”
Zedediah was slightly surprised and happy to hear his father’s word. He now knew that his father at least still looked at him as his son. “F-Father…why do you come to this place? Do you need something from the library? I can help you find it,” said Zedediah as he looked at the surrounding book shelves.
“Do I really need a reason to visit my own son?” said Joseph as he smiled warmly at Zedediah.
“W-What do you need me for father?” Zedediah was a bit scared to hear his father was especially putting his work off just to see him, he hoped that it wasn’t something so serious.
“Nothing much, I just want to talk to you for a bit. Sit down,” said his father as he sat on a chair in front of library’s table.
Zedediah sat across of his father in silence. He stared at his father as his father stared back at him. “You truly look like your mother…your eyes are a splitting image of hers…,” said Joseph to her son after a moment of silence.
“Y-Yes, aunt Anna and aunt Mary always said that too,” answered Zedediah nervously.
Joseph then smiled and said, “Zedediah. I heard that you stopped training magic, is that true?”
“…Yes Father…I was too stupid to learn magic…I am sorry to disappoint you…,” said Zedediah as he looked down to the top of the table to avoid his father gaze. He was to embarassed to look at his father right now.
“No, I am not disappointed. Magic really needs talent, you are just unlucky, I am not blaming you, Zedediah,” said Joseph as he stroke the little boy’s brown hair with his big sturdy hand.
A hint of tear was shown on the corner of Zedediah’s eyes because of his father’s warm words, but he quickly swept it with his sleeve. Joseph saw this and felt slightly surprised. “Zedediah, were you not sad because you couldn’t become a magician?” asked Joseph.
Zedediah fell silent for a bit, and then shook his head.
“Are you sad right now?” asked Joseph again.
Zedediah didn’t speak a word and just sat there on his chair. He didn’t want to lie to his father but he too didn’t really want to speak the truth.
“Why won’t you cry if you are sad?” Joseph knew that Zedediah was in fact really sad about his own self, but he was a bit surprised because Zedediah never show his sadness to anyone. Zedediah even swept his own tear so quickly to hide it from his own father.
Zedediah was startled, he went silent for a while, and then said slowly to his father, “I-I don’t want mother to be even sadder because of her useless son…”
Joseph stood up and smacked Zedediah’s cheek. Zedediah flew down from his chair with a really red and swollen cheek. Then he heard Joseph shouted at her, “DON’T INSULT YOUR MOTHER! SHE NEVER THOUGHT OF YOU AS A USELESS SON!! NEITHER DO I!! YOU ARE THE PROUD SON OF ME! THE EMPEROR OF THIS MIGHTY EMPIRE!! STAND UP AND LISTEN TO ME!!! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR MOTHER USUALLY SAID WHEN YOU WERE STILL A BABY?!”
Zedediah just shook his head as he stood up hearing his father’s command.
“SHE SAID, BE STRONG MY SON!! GROW STRONG FOR YOUR MOTHER AND FATHER!! GROW STRONG SO YOU CAN PROTECT THE ONE YOU LOVE!! SHE SAID THAT AS SHE HUGGED YOU IN HER ARMS, EVEN THOUGH HER BODY WAS REALLY WEAK!! SHE NEVER STOPPED HUGGING YOU DAY AND NIGHT!! SHE WOULD WAKE UP EVERYTIME YOU CRIED AND CARED FOR YOU!! NEVER EVEN ONCE SHE THOUGHT OF YOU AS USELESS!! SO DON”T YOU DARE CALL YOURSELF ONE!!” Joseph shouted at Zedediah furiously.
Tears poured down on Zedediah’s cheeks. “But Father… I don’t know what else I should do… I will never become a strong emperor like you… I don’t have the strength to become one…I will never have…”
Joseph walked slowly to the front of Zedediah. He put his hand on his seven years old son and said, “You don’t have to become an emperor… No one ever said you have to…What I want you to do, is the same as your mother…to become a man strong enough to protect the one you love…to protect your mother…”
Zedediah just stared at his father with a really confused look.
“To become an emperor is not to be strong physically. It is to have a determination strong enough to protect the one you love. I, as an emperor, loved my people with my whole heart, I can sacrifice myself to protect them. You don’t have to do that yet…you are still too young…I just want you to have the determination to protect your mother… and maybe one day, you will understand what it means to be an emperor, at that time I will give the throne to you…until that day, train, and be strong for your mother, for me…,” Joseph said that as he took his sword from the sheath and gave it to Zedediah.
Zedediah took it to his hand and said to his father, “But Father…with my weak body…”
Joseph grasped hard at Zedediah’s shoulder with both of his hands and said to him, “Don’t give me reasons… you will be weak if you think you are weak, and you will become strong if you think you are strong! Go and train my son! Become a man that is able to protect! You are my son, my flesh and blood, I trust you as much as I trust myself! Now tell me! Are you a strong man that is able to protect his mother?”
“Yes Father! I am!” shouted Zedediah as he grasped his father’s shortsword tightly. His eyes were now filled with strength and determination. He now respected his father deeper, and loved her mother even more. He promised to himself that he would become like his father, not as an emperor, but as a man that could protect the one they love.
Starting from that day Zedediah went to train by himself, his father told him to take some of the royal guards to train him but he refused them while saying that their time will just be uselessly used to train him for now. He said that he would first make his body stronger with training methods he learnt from the books and later he would learn combat from the guards. His father just nodded and trusted his son’s decision.
Zedediah went to train by himself at the forest behind the castle, in there was a beautiful small lake with dozens of fishes inside. After he ran around the lake for a while, he then started to train swinging the sword his father gave him. The sword was silvery coloured and really light just like a wooden sword, Zedediah doesn’t know what the sword was called and what it was made of, he just knew that his father always brought that sword around with him, he knew that this sword is really important for his father so he would always treated it really carefully.
The training itself was supposed to be really light for normal people, but, after the first day of training, Zedediah started to throw up and had a really high fever for the whole two days. His mother was really worried and stayed with him the whole time. But, after the fever was gone, Zedediah would go to the lake and train again. And then, after a whole day of training, he would throw up and have a fever again like before. His mother was scared to see his son suddenly forcing himself like this for a reason unknown to her.
Seeing his wife looked anxious and scared, Joseph could only frown. He then went and spoke to Zedediah, “Zedediah… I told you to train, but don’t make your mother scared like that, rest more and train slower, you will just make your mother sicker if you train like a crazy person like that.” But he himself knew from the secret guard, that he ordered to watch Zedediah’s training, that the training Zedediah did, couldn’t even be considered as a warm up for a normal soldier.
Zedediah just gazed at his father, “Father, I beg you, just tell mother to stop worrying about me and trust me. If I die from just this much training, then I won’t ever become a man that can protect the people I love even if I train for my whole life…”
Seeing the resolved eyes of his son, and the facts that he had spoken, Joseph could only frown and agree to his son’s request. Joseph then said to Sarah that their son already stopped training and went to learn economy from the Finance Minister, he would then come to see his mother once every few days to show that he is alright. Her mother frowned to hear that she couldn’t see her son as often as it was, but also relieved that her son already stopped that crazy training that made him lay in bed multiple times.
Zedediah continued his training in secret, he still fell sick everytime he finished his training, but he still went to his mother’s room in the morning after his fever went down and he went to train thereafter.
Then, after a whole year of training, his body became a bit healthier, he wouldn’t throw up and had fever anymore, but he would just have a muscleache for the whole day after his training.
Then one day, when he arrived at the lake to train, he saw her. A little girl was sitting on the edge of the lake with a fishing rod on her hand. Her back was facing him, so he could not see her face, but her hair was strangely blue colored and it was so long that it covered her whole back.
“Who are you? What are you doing in this forest?” asked Zedediah as he stood cautiously five meter behind the girl.
“Eh~ there is somebody coming here?? I was just bored and went fishing, I never knew that someone usually comes here~~” said the girl with a cheerful tone as she stood up and faced Zedediah.
Zedediah was stunned, he never saw a girl this cute and beautiful, even his three dazzlingly beautiful sisters couldn’t compare with her cuteness. The little girl was a bit shorter than him, with a long white one piece covering her body and a long blue hair that flowed until her knees. Her face was really sweet with big round blue eyes, small nose, and small pink lips. He just unconsciously stared at her beauty with a gaping mouth.
She suddenly tilted her head and said, “What a cute little boy…what are you doing here??”
Zedediah was startled. “W-W-Who is cute?? A-A-And you are even smaller than me!! A-A-A-And I am here to train to become a man!!” he said nervously, trying to show off to the cute girl.
“Ehehehe…yes, yes~~ I am indeed smaller than you~~~ So, you want to train to become a man? Can I see you train? It’s boring here because the fish won’t eat my bait~~”
“S-S-Suit yourself!! Just don’t bother me!” said Zedediah as he started to do his stretching. Then he ran around the lake as the little girl sat on top of a rock near the edge of the lake and looked at him while smiling.
He ran until mid-day, and then went back to the tree where he put his lunch. He ate the bread and the meat ferociously because he was really hungry, only after the lunch was gone did he remember that the little girl was there with him. “I-I am sorry! I was too hungry that I forgot to share my lunch with you! I-I only have cookies now, do you want it?” said Zedediah as he hold a leather bag to her direction.
“Cookies? What is that?” The girl just tilted her head in confusion.
Zedediah then opened up the leather bag and put out a round brown thing with his fingers. “I don’t know what it really is either, but it’s sweet and tasty. My sisters like to make and eat it.”
The little girl then stood up and went to the front of Zedediah. She looked curiously at the cookie in Zedediah’s hand, and then chomped it down to her mouth.
“Uaahhh…you almost bit my finger too!” shouted Zedediah.
The little girl didn’t say anything, she just chewed the cookie slowly with her mouth, a hint of amusement was shown on her reddened face.
Zedediah just stared stupidly at the sight of beautiful girl eating a cookie in front of him.
“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!! What is this thing!!! I never eat something this delicious in my whole life!!! Do you have more???” She stared at Zedediah with glittering eyes.
“I-I-I still have some here…,” said Zedediah as he pointed his index finger to the leather bag on his other hand.
She didn’t say anything anymore and just jumped straight on top of him with carnivorous eyes. “COOKIEEEEEES!!!!” She opened the leather bag and ate the whole cookies inside in the blink of an eye.
“Auuugh…careful! I got a sword near me!!” said Zedediah as he pushed the girl to the side.
The girl then stood up and put her hand to her waist, with a mouth covered with cookie’s crumbles, she said to Zedediah while laughing, “Ahahahaha!!! You have given me something so interesting!! Tell me your name little boy!! I will grant you one of your wish!!”
Zedediah just tilted his head in confusion. “Eeeeeeeeh?”
“Say anything you want from me!” said the little girl as she pounded her chest.
“Ah…ummm…then, my name is Zedediah, w-w-will you be my friend?” asked Zedediah nervously. He never really had a friend in the castle, even his sisters looked at him in pity, like he was a really frail doll that could break anytime. He felt lonely and useless all this time, so he thought that maybe having her as a friend will make him less lonelier in this world.
She just tilted her head and looked at him confusedly.
“Y-Y-You don’t want to? O-Okay then… ummm… I should go back now…” Zedediah felt really disappointed that he even decided to go home early from his training. He never skipped nor cut his training for the whole one year, only today did he decide to go home early.
“Ahahahahaha!!! You are a really interesting guy!!! Okay! I will become your friend! My name is Rea!! Nice to meet you Zed!!” She took Zedediah’s hand and shook it up and down really hard.
Zedediah felt really happy, he just became a friend to a really really beautiful girl. But then, he realized that he already said that he should go home, he really wanted to stay and continue to train in front of her, but he already embarrassingly lied to her. He frowned for a bit, but then decided to keep his dignity as a man. “I-I should go home for now, I need to take care of my mother. I will come tomorrow with cookies, will you be here R-R-Rea?” asked Zedediah nervously, he already didn’t care if he got muscle ache or even fever, if she said she would be here tomorrow, then he would come no matter what.
Rea just chuckled and said, “Ehehehehe… silly boy… ok, I will come here tomorrow too! Don’t forget the cookies okay!!”
“I-I won’t!” said Zedediah as he went away.
He walked back to the castle’s direction, then looked back to the lake after a while. He saw Rea waving her hand at him, then he waved back shyly. He smiled really wide and ran back to the castle, he was impatient to tell her mother about the cute girl he just met.
But, on the top of the tree near the lake…
‘Who is the Prince waving his hand at? And what just happened at the edge of the lake back then? It was just like he was speaking to someone.’ A man stood on top of the branch, he was wearing a full black clothes to hide his body. He was the guard that was ordered to secretly watch the Prince training.
‘Hey~~ peeking on my friend’s training is not good you know~~’ a voice was heard inside his head.
The guard was startled and looked around. Then he saw her, a girl squatted there, on top of the tree branch beside him, without he even realized.
“Hmm…let’s make it that you see a dog from now on…,” said the little girl as she flicked her finger. Then the guard fell down from the tree, and lost his consciousness.
The little girl collected the cookie crumbles around her mouth with her finger and sucked it up. “Mmmm…Yummy…!! I wonder what kind of cookies he will bring me tomorrow…”
Days passed, Zedediah kept training at the lake while bringing the cookies for Rea. He could train for one day and rested for one day for her mother, but, because of Rea, he trained really hard everyday and spent the time beside training only for eating, meeting her mother, and sleeping. He also told her mother about Rea, but he just said that they met at the Finance Minister’s house and not at the lake where he trained. Her mother was really happy to see her son speaking excitedly about a girl.
His body become healthier as he spent his time with Rea at his side, his heart also became happier as he got a friend that accompany him on his lonely training everyday. He never really asked Rea who she was, and she, too, never asked him about who he was. They never really talked much because he trained the whole time and only spoke to her during lunch time. He was afraid that if he asked too much, Rea would become annoyed and wouldn’t stay with him anymore.
Then another two years has passed. He was now a ten years old boy, his body became as healthy as a normal boy, but still far weaker than a knight’s apprentice that was around his age. But his Father and Mother were already really happy and proud of him, he, too, already told his mother about the truth of his training, she was a bit mad, but then just hugged him with tears of happiness.
He still kept training everyday to see her, the little girl with the blue long hair. Rea was still the same as she was back then two years ago, just staring at his training, and chomping down his cookies, she didn’t change at all, she literally didn’t. Zedediah felt that something was strange about her, but just put it on the back of his mind. She is cute, so nothing else matters, he thought to himself.
Then, one day, she asked him as she chomped down his cookies, “I never really asked you right Zed? Why do you train everyday? You are still so young.”
“I…I wanted to protect the one I love…,” said Zedediah as he thought about her sickly mother on her bed.
“Your Mother…?” asked her while chewing another cookie.
Zedediah was a bit startled. “How do you know?”
She just chomped down another cookie again. “Nyamm…nyemm…What price are you willing to pay to have the power to protect the one you love?”
He thought for a while as he remembered his father’s word to protect the entire empire. “Any price…”
“Hmmm…close your eyes then…” she said to him as she licked the cookie’s crumble in her hand with her tongues.
Zedediah was a bit confused, but then just closed his eyes. He knew that Rea was a strange girl, but after two years of being with her, he already trusted her.
“I don’t really know if you already closed your eyes or not…hmmm…”
“Don’t mock my eyes!! I inherited it from my mother!!”
“Just kidding~~ here I go~~”
Then Zedediah suddenly felt Rea’s warm hand on his cheeks. Moreover, a soft, warm, and a little wet felling was also enveloping his forehead.
‘W-Why is she kissing me? I-It’s warm and comfortable though,’ he thought to himself as he enjoyed the feeling of Astraea’s lips on his forehead, ‘…wait…it’s getting warmer…augh!!! It’s hot!!!’
Zedediah tried to struggle from her ‘hot’ forehead kiss, but her hand was tightly grasping his cheeks, so he couldn’t move. After five seconds of burning feeling, she released her hands from his cheeks. Zedediah ran to the lake and dipped his head inside.
“Ouch…ouuuch…it’s hot!! What are you doing?? Are you trying to burn my forehead??” asked Zedediah as he stroked his forehead.
“Meh…why are you complaining after I kissed you??” said Rea as she puffed her cheeks.
“What kind of kiss is that to actually burn my head?”
“Meh…I won’t tell you anymore…” Rea sulked and turned her head while chomping another cookie.
“Come one…just tell me…I will bring you two kind of cookies tomorrow if you explain it to me…”
Zedediah saw Rea’s ear twitched. “Really?” asked her.
“Well…if you say so…well, I can’t say much, but you get what you want, and later destiny will have you to pay the price, I don’t know what and when though…”
Zedediah just frowned and stared at her in confusion, he was after all only ten years old, he didn’t understand a single thing she said to him. “That’s not really an explanation, so I won’t bring you two cookies tomorrow!”
“B-b-b-b-but you already promised me!!”
“Then you have to kiss me once again!”
“Stingy!!!!” shouted Rea as he pounced at him with her claw ready to scratch his face.
“Ahahahaha,” Zedediah just laughed as he hugged her and rolled on the grass below them.
It was happy days for him and Rea…
Until that day…
The day of the payment, that even ‘Rea’ herself didn’t know of…
It was a stormy night over the Knightley Empire. While everyone were already sleeping, it suddenly happened.
Countless stones fell from the sky after a huge red magic formation suddenly appeared above the city.
“DEMONS HAS COME!!! DEMON’S INVASION!!!” shouted the guards on the city’s wall. The bell of emergency was rung countless times to warn the people inside the city. The people then ran around aimlessly in panic to avoid the unseen demons that attacked them, they took shelter under their house, under their neighbor house, or tried to run outside the city. Panicked cries and screams were heard throughout the night.
Inside the castle, Joseph, that was sleeping beside Sarah, already woke up and put on his armor. Then she said to Sarah, “Sarah, go collect everyone and hide in the cellar, I need to protect the people.”
A Knight with a golden armor ran into the room and reported to him, “Your Majesty the Demons invaded us with a huge Teleportation Magic Formation, we were hit by a surprise attack!!”
“Don’t get panicked George, we need to protect the people! You stay with Sarah and protect my family, I will go and direct the troops to defeat those demons.”
“B-But Your Majesty?!”
“I said, Stay here and Protect my Family! Don’t you hear me?!” shouted Joseph.
“Your wish is my command!” said George as he knelt to Joseph.
“You are the only one strong enough to protect my family. I need to protect this Empire. You understand this right, George?”
“Guh…I understand Your Majesty…I will protect your family with my life!”
“Good! Let’s not waste any time! Sarah, go with George to get Zedediah and the other!”
“Dear!” Sarah already understood about her husband’s duty, she already knew that his husband would always put his people’s life above his own. She just leaped into his embrace and hugged him with teary eyes.
“Sarah…please…” said Joseph as he swept the tear on her face.
Sarah just smiled and said to him, “Kill those damned demons for me, okay?”
“I will…then we will have new decorations of demon’s horns”
“Go… and come back to me safely…” She kissed him, and then pushed his body away from her.
“George, protect them for me…” said Joseph as he turned around and ran outside the chamber’s door.
“Yes Your Majesty!” shouted George.
“Your Highness… let’s go, we couldn’t waste anymore time, the demons will come anytime!” said George as he looked at the dazed Empress.
“Un…you go to the west wing and collect Mary, Anna, and their daughters. I will go to the east wing to take Zedediah. We will meet at the cellar, and then go through the secret door.”
“But…Your Highness?! It will be dangerous if you go alone! I promised Your Majesty, to protect his families!”
She slapped him, he didn’t feel anything because she was too weak, but his heart ached because he knew that he made this Empress, who was never angry at anyone, mad. “Joseph already said to you not to be panicked! You are his General! You already said yourself that the Demons will come anytime! We can’t waste anymore time!!”
“Ugh… As you wish, Your Highness! May the Goddess Blessing be with you!” he said to her as he knelt down with a slightly teary eyes. He knew that it was hard for this sickly Empress to even walk, but she forced herself to go alone, just so she could save even more of his husband’s family. She would pick up her son, and he would pick up the other Empress, no matter what, this was really the most suitable plan, but this plan also gave her the most burden. He understood that, but he wouldn’t say anything anymore, he already felt the Empress’s determination from the slap that he felt on his cheek.
“Let’s go George…” she said to him as she walked outside the room hurriedly. She then went to the right, and he went to the left.
At this same moment on the east wing of the castle, Zedediah woke up in a panic as he heard a really loud sound from the city’s direction. He leaped up out of his bed and took his father’s sword from the table beside his bed. He then looked out of the window. “That huge ancient magical formation! Demons! I need to protect mother!”
Then he ran out of the room and began to search for his mother in her room that was located beside his room. “She isn’t here…then today is her turn to sleep with father in the central chamber…” Zedediah already understood about his father way of having an equal time of loving with his three wives, his father would spend each day sleeping with his wives in turn. “I need to run to the central chamber… I have to help my father to protect mother, the aunts, and my three cousins…”
Then he started to run to the direction of the central chamber.
After a few minutes of running inside the giant castle, he arrived at the corridor that separated the east wing and the central section. There, he saw his mother running to his direction. He could see his mother’s happy face as she saw him. “Mother!! Are you okay?!” said Zedediah as he sped up to her mother’s side.
“Zededi-aaaaghhh!” A huge black hand suddenly flew in from the shattered glass windows on the side of the corridor and grasped at Sarah’s waist.
“Mother!!!!!!” Zedediah shouted as he stared at the huge black silhouette that flew into the castle. That black silhouette was holding his mother on its hand. It was a huge black demon with a wing on his back, and a really huge swirling horn on the right side of its head.
‘A High Level Demon!’ thought Zed. He already read on a book that a High Level Demon evolved to have wings on their back after their horn couldn’t grow anymore.
“GUHAHAHAHA….I am so lucky that I actually grasped the mother in front of the kid…” said the demon as he licked Sarah’s head.
“Run Zedediah!!! Run!!!” shouted Sarah.
But Zedediah just stood there with a really ferocious face. “RELEASE MY MOTHER!!!” shouted Zedediah.
“Hmmm…should I kill the son in front of the mother, or should I kill the mother in front of the son?” grumbled the demon as he floated inside the corridor and scratched his chin with his sharp claw. He just ignored what Zedediah was saying as he was too weak for him.
“Don’t you dare touch my mother!!” shouted Zedediah again as he threw his sword with all his might to the Demon. He just couldn’t reach that Black Demon if he swung his sword normally because the demon was flying, so he threw it aiming at its face.
The Demon didn’t avoid the sword at all and just grasped it with his finger effortlessly. “Ah, I knew!! I will just half kill the boy in front of her mother, then kill the mother in front of the dying kid!!” said the demon as he threw the sword back at Zedediah. It then pierced Zedediah’s right chest as easy as a knife that cut through the butter and flung him down to the floor because of the sword guard that couldn’t pierce his body.
“NOOOOOO!!!” shouted Sarah as she helplessly saw her son being pierced by a sword.
Zedediah could feel a burning feeling flowing up from his chest to his throat, then he coughed it up, it was his blood that already streamed into his right lung…
“Hehehe kid…now look at this closely…I will eat your mother in front of you…sadly she was a little bit too small for me to have fun…but small girl usually tastes sweeter…”
“Zedediah…,” her mother just helplessly cried seeing her son lying motionlessly on the floor.
“pt yr han oh mthr cough…cough…” Zedediah could only grumbled as he coughed up more bloods.
Then he put up his right hand slowly to the demon’s face direction and started to chant the only spell he could do, [Fireball]. But, because his throat was filled with blood, he couldn’t chant at all, he could only imagine his own mana making a fireball on his hand and flew up to the Demon’s head. Then it really happened, a small fireball flew to the Demon’s direction from Zedediah’s hand. The Demon became a bit surprised when he saw Zedediah wasn’t chanting anything before that [Fireball] flew to him.
“Ooooh~ a young chantless magician… what a lucky day… I actually killed a chantless magician…The Emperor was right, this human empire really has a little bit of dangerous humans… We really need to destroy this one before starting to invade the human continent. It really worths it to sacrifice a thousand lowly demons just to open up that transportation formation…”
“Now boy, where were we? Ah right you can try again to use your magic, I will slowly put your mother in my mouth, maybe you can save her~~ Crunch ah…I accidentally ate her…”
Zedediah saw her headless mother being held on that demons hand. He felt furious and sad at the same time, he failed to protect his mother. He was too weak…way too weak…
Then he imagined a huge [Fireball] to destroy that demon and poured all his mana into it as he shouted and coughed up blood in madness, “AAAAAGAAAHAAHAAAAA”
The Black Demon just laughed as he saw the desperate little boy that lay helplessly in front of him, “GAHAHAHAHA…blame yourself for being weak!! Now just sit there quietly as I ate the rest of your mother…wait! what are you doing?! Stop!”
A terrifying sight was shown in front of him, a really really huge [Fireball] was lit in front of him and it still grew rapidly. “Stop!! What are you doing!! Gaaaaaaaahhh……” The Demon was swallowed up by the [Fireball] and died just like that. It was already bizarre to see the weakest fire spell [Fireball] could even scratch a Demon, but Zedediah’s [Fireball] was so strong that, only from his forming phase, it could already swallow up the Demon.
After Zedediah put all his mana into the [Fireball], he felt like his head was split open. And then, as he saw his [Fireball] swallowed the Demon and his mother, he lost his consciousness. ‘Mother…I am sorry I failed to protect you…’ he thought to himself as his consciousness was starting to fade away. He fell unconscious because of the side effect of wasting mana in a short moment.
But the [Fireball] already ate all his mana and still growing rapidly…
It became bigger than the corridor and swallowed the East Wing…
Then it swallowed the whole Castle where the two Empress and their daughters hid…
Then the whole city where Joseph and his troops fought the demons…
Then it exploded and blasted away everything that wasn’t swallowed by the fire…
It all happened in an instant and ended in an instant as well…
The capital city of Knightley Empire was wiped up from the continent, all that left was a huge crater that was formed from a huge explosion. No one knew what really happened on that day, people said that the Demon Emperor threw a meteor onto that city and wiped up everything, but no one really believed it, it was just a rumor after all…
Zedediah’s body, that couldn’t be harmed by the [Fireball] that was formed from his own mana, was just helplessly thrown away by the explosion. His body flew like a leaf into the sky then rolled down on the ground countless time after he fell down. The wound on his right chest became worse as the sword spun together with his body and shook violently after getting caught up by the hard ground. Blood splattered everywhere and all his bones already cracked down or even broke.
He didn’t die…
He was just dying…
But, as his consciousness started to came again, he really wanted to die…
‘I failed to protect mother… I really am a useless guy…’
He couldn’t move his body at all, it was hurting all over…
‘I-If I close my eyes…will she be there for me?’
Then he started to slowly close his eyes…
A really loud voice was heard from in front of him, but he couldn’t see it because his head was facing down to the ground.
“Oh…are you the one? You looked really messed up… Are you dead already?” said the voice he heard from above him. Then, he felt that his body was kicked and spun upside down.
“There you go…good…you are still alive…”
Zedediah faintly saw a tall man with a brown robe over his body, his eyes was still cloudy so he couldn’t see clearly who it was. His throat was burned as well, so he couldn’t speak at all.
“So do you want to live? Or to die?” asked the man…