Randolph was in a line that seemed to stretch for an eternity, but luckily he stood closer to the front of it. Men of all ages were waiting but didn’t seem impatient of put off by the endless line. The reason? King Windsor had called for all men, whether they had the talent or not, to take a simple test and if they passed, they would be rewarded immensely. Money, a noble title, a powerful weapon, and even an apprenticeship under Cyprian Aurell, a man who was renown for his sword skills.
Clark never even thought about going so Randolph was on his own and fell into a daydream. He wanted to surpass Ira, that was his goal ever since he was beaten by him.
“Next!” A guard shouted as he looked at Randolph who had become immersed in his own thoughts.
“Ah, yes!” Randolph stepped into the room and saw officials and priests lined up each side. A young man with bronze skin and dark hair dressed in white robes stood at the forefront. It was obvious by the sword on his hip and the well-disciplined look about him that it was Cyprian Aurell.
Randolph couldn’t help but to compare him to Ira and found that Ira was more relaxed while Cyprian seemed to be constantly on guard though it may have been because he was in a foreign country. In recent days, it would be hard to see Ira actually on guard since the people who could currently challenge him were literally less than the number of fingers he had on both of his hands.
Then Randolph shook as he spotted someone familiar, it was Juliana, the girl he and Clark had stumbled upon one day. Next to her was her brother, Roy Fairfax, who was a paladin from the temple. Standing at Roy’s side was the old Grand Priest who went by the name of Karson. Since Randolph didn’t know her complete background he was unaware of the family she hailed from. That was until he saw her next to Roy, a paladin who had some weight to his name, but with Ira around, all the leading figures in the Kingdom were basically children playing pretend when compared.
Juliana jumped as she met Randolph’s surprised gaze which drew the notice of Grand Priest Karson.
“Is something wrong Lady Fairfax?” Karson asked as he eyed Randolph. He was one of the few who knew about Juliana’s abilities so he assumed she must’ve had a vision of him.
“N-No.” Juliana shook her head with a wry smile.
“Is this really necessary? Why not pick someone who already has talent and let me train them? I don’t mean to be impatient but the present state of my country is quite worrying.” Cyprian spoke tiredly.
“Ah, yes, Lord Cyprian. If no one is chosen we’ll settle it with some sort of contest.” A representative of the King spoke before signaling for Randolph to approach.
“All you need to do is place your hand on the metal.” A Knight approached with a box in hand and opened it to expose a small rock.
“...Just touch it?” Randolph asked.
“Correct.” The Knight answered.
Randolph felt a heavy energy being emitted from the metal but managed to keep himself calm. He placed his hand on the stone and the Grand Priest leaned closer to search for the faintest change. After a few minutes of silence, nothing happened and a collective sigh echoed from all of those present.
“It looks like he wasn’t able to–” Just as the Grand Priest began to speak the piece of God Steel began to glow with a golden light that gave everyone the urge to kneel on the spot.
After a few seconds, the golden light dimmed and silence pervaded the room. Juliana’s eyes rolled back and her body twitched before she raised her arm and pointed toward Randolph. Her movements seemed almost puppet-like but no one seemed to think so.
“...A young man chosen by the Gods.” The Grand Priest politely bowed toward Randolph who gazing at Juliana with a concerned look.
A commotion filled the room as the selection process was immediately ended and the crowd lined up was made to disperse.
“I’ll be training you from now on,” Cyprian said indifferently. He was skeptical as to whether or not the process wasn’t staged, but it didn’t matter to him as he wanted to return home as soon as possible.
“T-Thank you,” Randolph spoke nervously as he began to sweat. It was strange for him considering he continued to cross paths with people that were far stronger than him.
Ira held Raveria close to him as he stood in the undying garden and watched as Avery swung the burning red sword.
“You want to take her with you?” Avery asked.
“Not just her, you too.” Ira answered.
“...If it’s what you want then I’ll go.” Avery nodded and sheathed her sword.
The three of them were set to go to Ira’s house so that the others could see Raveria, but that’s as far as Ira would go with her. He found it best to keep her close to the Valkyries to ensure she was protected.
“It’ll only take a second.” Ira smiled at Raveria which caused her respond with a dimpled smile of her own.
Avery moved closer to them before Ira brought them away from the Valkyrie’s Hall and to his house in the Capital.
Samantha was sitting at a table at Ira’s house with several folders for Harper, Aldis, and Amy. She would bring them jobs at Ira’s request so it was no surprise to see her appear from time to time. Rhys was the only odd one out since she operated without a handler and was too strong for most of the task the other three would undertake. While they were in the middle of their discussions, two people suddenly appeared out of thin air which caused Harper to jump out of her seat.
“Ira!” Harper ran toward him but immediately stopped after seeing what was in his arms.
“Woah!” Harper’s eyes widened as she saw the child.
“This is Raveria, Harper,” Ira said as he set his daughter down.
To Harper’s surprise, and everyone else in the room, Raveria was already able to walk steadily.
“She looks just like you, Ira,” Amy said as she rushed over to observe the toddler.
Even Aldis had his expression soften as he watched the little girl walk around with curious eyes.
“Congratulations,” Samantha said as they crowded around the girl and in response she moved back to Ira’s side and hid behind his leg.
Rhys approached with a smile even if Avery briefly cast an emotionless gaze toward her. Ira, on the other hand, greeted Rhys with a nod. Behind him, Raveria’s poked her head out to take a quick peek before she hid again to the disappointment of everyone else. It couldn’t be helped since Raveria’s instincts told her to stay close to her parents even if she was curious.
“Has our mother said anything about coming down, Avery. I left several requests at the Manor, but so far they haven’t been answered.” Aldis said.
“A large amount of attention needs to be given toward Raveria for her own safety. Her abilities are...dangerous to some extent.” The thought of Raveria reversing the construction of the Mountain was the worst possible outcome for the Valkyries seeing as they all would be crushed. Luckily, it seemed that Raveria knew not to do it or her abilities were at that level yet.
“I see…” Aldis looked slightly disappointed.
“If it’s a small matter I can handle it myself,” Avery stated.
“I want to prove to our mother and grandmother that I’m capable of making my own decisions. In order to do that, they’ll likely place me against a Valkyrie to see how strong I am. I’d actually prefer if it wasn’t you.” Aldis said as he evaluated Avery.
It seemed like terrifying power filled her every movement and he couldn’t even think of going up against her.
“Wait…” Aldis looked at Avery’s waist and saw a longsword with a wolf’s head as the pommel and a phoenix spreading its wings as the crossguard, “You’re not using a saber any more?”
“No, this is something Aunt Judith made.” Avery was still unsure why the saber she originally wanted came out as a sword and shield and Judith still had yet to explain.
“Alright, enough about that. Samantha the next job I take will be my last, so be sure to arrange everything for me.” Ira said as he picked Raveria up again.
“There’s no problem it’s just...You have over a dozen invitations to multiple social gatherings and dinners.”
“Reject all of them.”
“All of them?” Samantha repeated in disbelief. Several of the people who invited him were way above her in status so she couldn’t fathom denying their requests.
“Yeah, all of them. You should be focused on moving to the Dark Elf Empire anyway, I’ll tell Sylun to give you an administrative position.”
“Sylun as in Sylun Meldara? You’re going to t-tell the Queen?” Samantha was taken off guard by Ira’s relationship with the Dark Elves. She assumed they treasured him given his status, but she never thought that the Queen herself would listen to him.
“Is something wrong with you today? I say one thing and you repeat it and to be frank, it’s a little weird, Samantha.” Ira pulled Raveria closer as if he was worried about Samantha’s behavior spreading.
“Home.” Raveria tugged on Ira’s shirt.
“Ah!” Ira’s eyes widened in shock as Raveria finished speaking. It was due to the fact that he could actually understand her and it wasn’t the usual incoherent speech she was used to.
“You want to go home?” Ira said with an expectant look.
“Home,” Raveria said with a giggle before continuing, “Home, home, home.”
Ira looked as if he was going to burst as he restrained himself from shouting at the top of his lungs. Avery also had a smile on her face as she listened to her daughter speak.
“Well, I gotta go,” Ira said as he prepared to depart but he suddenly stopped.
“If Casper comes by tell him to report to any one of you. Also, tell him I said that after all this time away he better have something good.” Ira smiled and didn’t wait for a response before disappearing.
Instead of pouting as usual, Harper smiled while thinking of Raveria. She had only seen her once and already wanted to meet her again.
“She was so cute.” Amy grinned as she looked at Harper who nodded in agreement.
The group eventually went back to their discussions on what job to take next or if they even should after Ira clearly showed that he was planning on moving to the Dark Elf Empire.
Elsewhere, Casper was full of anxiousness as the days went by. He had learned absolutely nothing after Prince Hayden was confined to his room. No one spoke of that day and the Prince himself seemed to be in a state of devastation as his brothers slowly ate up his faction. After signing a soul contract, Casper needed to find some important information as soon as possible or the next time he met with Ira could be his last moments alive.
Casper told himself he needed patience, but unfortunately he was all out of it. He even thought of threatening the Prince’s life or finding a way to blackmail him, that’s how desperate he was.
Suddenly, a pale and plain-looking maid approached the room carrying a platter and knocked on the door, “Your Highness, I’ve brought the fruit you’ve requested.”
Casper narrowed his eyes suspiciously from within the shadows. He had been outside of the Prince’s room everyday since he was confined and he had never seen Hayden ask for fruit.
The door creaked opened and the maid entered along with a her shadow that seemed just a bit too large to be her own.
The inside of Hayden’s room was dark and messy due to lack of care toward anything.
As Hayden sat down in the chair he began to speak, “I took a huge risk reaching out to you so if they don’t agree to my terms then you should leave now.”
“Your Highness.” The maid bowed as she opened the platter and revealed various fruits. She grabbed the least appetizing fruit and pulled out a strip of paper which she handed over to Hayden.
For the first time since he was confined, Hayden smiled, in fact, he started cackling like a madman.
“Perfect!” Hayden looked refreshed as he stood up, “If I’m to be King then I’ll need to count on their support.”
“Don’t worry, Your Highness. The High Chancellor gave his word that you’ll be allowed to keep autonomy since your offer was too good to ignore. As long as you look kindly at us when dividing the resources there is no reason we can’t help you secure the throne. We can even offer you much more than that.” The maid whispered with a sly look.
“Does that include you?” Hayden groped the maid who showed no signs of rejection.
“If that’s what his Highness wants.” She used a cloth to wipe her face and it became clear her plain looks were a disguise as an attractive woman was revealed.
Casper didn’t stay to spectate the conclusion and was already out of the room by the time she finished speaking. He finally gained a large piece of information for Ira so the threat of death lessened.