AOH – Chapter 59

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CHAPTER 59: A STEP FORWARD

RENASIA

PRINCESS RHYSSA RENASI

I have returned to my country, my beautiful and great Renasia. The sand, the sun, the heat all greets me.

I look as I walked by the courtyard, the green garden my father built for my mother with vines beautifully wrapped themselves around the column of the arc near the fountain.

I sighed.

Isabelle is beside me, my handmaiden, telling me about this young Knight that she met in the Capital when she was looking for me.

‘And you know, Princess, he is so chivalrous, telling me that he would help me. And not to mention he is very handsome and comes from a good family. I would be delighted to see him again.’ She said enthusiastically

‘Princess, are you listening?’

‘I am.’

She looked at me.

‘What are you thinking about Princess?’

There is this one nagging question I have. Should I ask her?

‘What is love?’ I asked.

She beamed her eyes at me. Then she looked at me more intently than ever.

‘Hmm, are you jesting with me, Princess?’

‘No I’m not. What is love?’

She laughed.

‘Love, huh? What is love? hmmm….. Many have searched for the answer to that question my Princess, but I’m afraid the answer like love itself is elusive.’

‘What is that supposed to mean? Can’t you give a clear answer?’ I said slightly angry.

She talks like the Fire Oracles.

Vague answers, answer that felt like a question. This is why I do not like to speak to those zealots.

‘Do not get angry, Princess’ she giggled.

‘I do not know how or what is the royalty definition of love my Princess for meself am no royalty and I have no intention in defining what is love or to even suggest, but I may offer some advice in my point of view, Princess.’

‘Let’s hear it then.’

‘To me love is a decision my princess, a carefully crafted judgment.’ She said seriously, with a stiff face.

‘Is that so?’

She giggled again. Her face turns to smiles looking at me like she is amazed.

‘Oh, I was just jesting, Princess.’

‘What!’

‘Yes, Princess. Have you never read poems? Love story told by bards? Love song sung by minstrels? Princess, Princess’ she said shaking her head.

‘When you talk about love, that mysterious feelings that baffles men and irritates women to no end, when you talk of love, rarely there is a right answer. It is madness, love is, Princess. Foolishness and recklessness all molded into the most baffling combination. And even that might be so, why do you think people still fell in love, Princess? Addicted to it and feeling themselves wanting, the sweet sorrows even the extreme longing?’

‘Why?’ I asked curios more than ever.

‘Because it is rare and precious, since not many people find it, the most clarifying insanity, the greatest foolishness someone could experience. Love has a certain kind of magic, a magic that no magicians, no Arch mage can ever produce, a magic that anyone can have, magic to make of the poorest beggar a king, to make the chaotic world feels like paradise. But be warned, Princess’ she said and her face turned hard, giving a dire warning.

For a moment she appeared like the Fire Oracles, giving out a deadly prophecy.

‘It is because it is precious and rare not many people found it. All the laws, logics, rules, rationale in the universe, all the oath of honour and duty cannot tear love from the heart, once love has taken root.”

‘Then, love controls you?’ I asked.

‘Wouldn’t that be a weakness?’ I said.

She laughed a little.

‘It’s not that you should never love something so much that it can control you. It’s that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled. It’s not a weakness, Princess, it never is. It will become your greatest strength and in love, freedom can be found for no one can tear it from your heart unless you let them. There is freedom in loving Princess, that even slaves and serfs can indulge.’

I nodded in understanding.

I never…..thought that Isabelle is this mature in the matters of the hearts. I always found her to be…..lacking in propriety and she has her quirks that I would like to remove if I can, but maybe that’s her charm.

Because even though she doesn’t like the same thing I do, she has something I don’t. There is love in her.

An abundance of it, and she gives them unreservedly to the people she love. Then what I’m feeling right now? Is it love?

Even now, I could not forget the beautiful young lord I met in my journey, the young lord who has such beautiful white hair and a clear blue eye that pierces right though me, and such domineering persona.

There is never a night that goes by when his visage did not accompany me to sleep, a morning when he did not flutter behind my waking eyelids with longing in par of madness.

We only met once, yet I…..I don’t understand. I couldn’t get him out of my mind. It is the first time I ever felt like this.

I look at the courtyard again. Everything is more beautiful than before.

‘Why, Princess you ask me of such matters?’

‘Huh?’

‘You rarely speak to me about such thing Princess. Usually you would avoid such conversation, and I recall you calling such conversation girly and you hate it when I speak about it in front of you. Do you have someone in your heart?’ She said grinning.

‘I…do not!’ I said almost yelling, my cheek red, blushing because I was put on the spot.

She looked at me and then with a sly smile she said.

‘Whatever you said, Princess’ and she giggled behind me

‘I SAID I DO NOT!’

‘Yes, yes, Princess. You have no one. Good for you’ she said still giggling.

I could never win against her.

Surely, she would spread some rumours among the handmaiden.

‘Let’s hurry. I need to check the barracks.’

‘Of course Princess.’ And she sighed

‘A day rarely goes by without you supervising those uncouth men, sweating and killing things.’ She said, clearly she doesn’t like it.

‘They are soldiers of the Kingdom.’

‘Yes, Princess, and they smell’

‘That is because they are in training!’

‘In what? Sweating?’

‘PROTECTING!’

‘Whatever you said, Princess’ she said, clearly not satisfied that we are going to the barracks again.

Isabelle likes gardens, balls, and the extravagance stuff. I never understand her distaste for soldiers when many of our soldiers become nobles but she would tolerate a Knight.

But a soldier?

There is always something, that she would found fault in a soldier. I never understand that of her. One of her many quirks I guess.

And then my mind wanders off to the recent events that have happened in the Kingdom.

My new units need supervision and since my father has bought many lands in Cora, expanding our territory from the bankrupt House of Corazon, we have gained many lands around the border without any war or bloodshed.

In the dealings of my father I learned that to gain something, maybe war isn’t the only way. I was sure that to take lands war is the only way but my father proved me wrong.

House Corazon sold many of his lands to settle his enormous debt and the expense of the Kingdom of Cora.

It takes a lot of money from our treasury but my father said the lands will make up for it in harvest abundance.

There is also some battle in the new border because of the few noble houses that is not satisfied with such transaction so my father sends Ser Pedro to fight them.

It is not a war because the Kingdom itself is not supportive of that noble house conduct

And not to mention, my father make use of our relatives to betroth the other sons and daughter of the noble families in Cora.

This way, if most of them is related to Renasia then incorporating them to our Kingdom would easier.

Who would have thought that my father is capable of such brilliance! No….Pedro sees it. The other lords see it.

And my mother. That is why their support to him has always been unanimous.

I’m the only one who has been blind all this time.

I always believed that my father should be…..a warrior fighting in the battlefield, and I despise my grandmother and her sultry words because words are winds and most of her talk is pure wind.

But maybe…maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. Maybe….war is needed but not for all things. Sometimes words can settle a war and brokered peace in a way I never knew.

I said when I reject the crown that he should be more assertive and I urge my father to make our Kingdom a strong one, now that Alan is getting stronger.

My father and the other noble houses agree. Alan has the House of Vermont.

After returning, I ask Pedro to send people to find information about the Vermont family and what I found is shocking.

I rarely give a care about the state affairs so I don’t really know of any noble houses from other Kingdom but reading about the Vermont only leaves me more in awe.

The Vermont’s belongs to one of the wealthiest family in the continents, with trade company established in other continents and they have many banks that lent money to noble lords.

They even lent many of gold to the royalty of Cora which they also pay back using the gold they get from selling their lands.

In it is said their wealth, the wealth of their household almost rivaled the expense of small countries.

The young lord, like he said is the young master of the Vermont, a Knight, who is very known in the Alan Kingdom, helping killing many criminals and apprehended a lot of them in such a young age.

He is known to be honorable, smart and some even say a genius. Loved by the people and respected by the nobles.

His father is the Kingmaker, while he is a capable commander. Alan is right now is at war and he is in the thick of it.

His family sigil is a dragon. Heir of the Duchy and one of the most prominent families in Alan.

Comparing to his achievement my achievement looks inconsequential. Most of the things I achieved is because of my parents.

I never went to any order of Knights.

Though I am and will always be proud to bear the title of Eastern Devil Disciple. I have 2 Senior Sister, both of them is Vern origin.

Miao Linfeng and Zhu Linfeng. They are twin’s sisters. My teacher said to pay my respect if I ever met them.

Pedro seems to like this new me but I do put new goals for me and that is to surpass him. The young lord of the Vermont….and meet him again, more…graceful and stronger than before.

And even though I might not take the throne, I did accept the position as one of the General in the army which I began by creating 5000 man units of great talents. The one that I’m about to check now.

‘Is it far away? How long till we’re there?’ Isabelle complained

‘Don’t rush. Just walk in a calm pace, tone down your complaints and we will reach there faster.’ I said to Isabelle

I looked at her.

‘Next time, I will invite you to one of the balls that my mother always held. How about that?’

And her face quickly lights up.

‘Really! Really!’

She said, jumping and hugging me.

‘Yes, I promise to invite you if you endure this for me.’

‘My pleasure’ she said.

And her complaints stopped. I smile a little. She is so simple. Full of life. Though she really hates fighting.

But I’m royalty, blood of Duvan. War is our norm. Especially for royalty.

We finally arrived at the barracks. I can hear their exasperated breaths, panting in exhaustion, the sounds of the slashing of swords and yelling.

I looked at them with a proud smile.

An elite unit for me, chosen from very young and trained. The slave we have also given some leeway in that if they were chosen after 10 years of service they will be a free man.

I also bean learning from the teachers about philosophy, strategy, literature, history and military tactics all to prepare myself and become what Pedro envisioned of me.

A wise queen, that will rule her people wisely.

I also, now, that my father knows my relations with Eastern Devil and knowing of my personality which is  that I’m stubborn enough that I will not stop learning from him.

My father, instead offer me guards to accompany me when I went to the Island to practice.

Every week I will spend two days on that island before returning back to the palace and train my elite troops.

I also began learning noble etiquette, dressing gracefully and beautifully.

Because I lean that manner is not only on the way we treat people but how we treat ourselves, whether it be the way we walk or the way we talk.

Do we treat ourselves and carry ourselves like a dignified person or as an unscrupulous person?

I also began listening to the advice that many of the people giving me.

A wise Queen should not neglect minority opinions and give a careful hearing. This is what Pedro once told me, quoting the Analects of the Three Teachings.

This is one of the things I learned. In a way, my loss to Arial Vermont was a humbling experience.

A precious and rare experience. A defining moment.

I have always been fighting, testing my martial arts with other martial artist; and while it is hard for me to admit this loudly, I enjoy fighting, the dance, the beautiful movement and the tension.

And yet I cannot pretend that my fight with Arial is the same as any fight I have ever encountered.

I forget myself in that battle, in fluid of disbelief and fear and excitement all blended into one.

I fight some martial artist in the way home, after my defeat, yet it is not the same.

And I felt a yearning to meet the boy gain, defying all my reason, I found myself wanting.

‘Princess’ the captain recognized me and quickly he knee.

The other seeing the captain kneeled also kneeled. The troops stopped their training and quickly kneeled.

‘Princess, why did you come here?’

‘Can’t I?’

‘No, of course not. Of course you can’

‘How is the training?’

‘It is going good.’

‘Continue your training.’ And the troops nodded and continue their training

‘Captain, come here.’

Then I ask him to tell me the progress of my troops.

He tells me of their training and progress telling me all that I’m supposed to know. Their diets, how they are trained, when thy sleep, when they wake up.

I nodded and in some I advise him to do some modification in the regiment, focusing more in external martial arts.

Because not everybody can cultivate strong internal energy. Then in the evening I finally begin to move to return to the palace.

‘Finally that is done’ Isabelle said, massaging her neck

‘Yes, well…it is’

‘Where is Pedro and Arturo. Did both of them join the battle?’

I nodded. I still remember how I argue with Pedro about war

‘War is not the only way Princes.’ He said, as we argue about what is war in one of our arguments, a few days before I went outside the palace with Arturo.

‘War is hell.’ he said

‘War is also mystery and adventure, display of great courage, and discovery’

‘War makes people pitiful, Princess.’

‘It can also make people holy. Look at Levitia! In some places, there is a cult worshipping him and the other heroes.’

‘Well, war brought despair.’

‘It also bring longing and great love story. The story of Zhu Ar Zur for example. How his wife waited for him to return, all the while trying to spur all the suitors that came to her house, when they thought Zhu Ar Zur is dead. Such noble fidelity! Such loyalty!’

‘War is nasty!’ Pedro said almost half yelling

‘War is fun!’ I yelled back

‘War is drudgery.’

‘War is thrilling, one of the most thrilling thing.’ I said

‘And last but not least, war makes you a man and a hero! Are you not a man Pedro? Do you not desire to be a hero?’

Pedro smiles.

‘War also makes you dead. Man, woman, what does any of that matter? Hero’s? Tell me a story where a hero lives to see his deed accomplished? War brings great destruction. You speak of war like it is a romantic notion, Princess. You make a romance out of war, my Princess. I know why. Because the alternative is hard. Peace is hard. War is easier. It is easier to lead men to combat and battles, stirring up their passions, to scream to them to kill for their country than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace.’

‘You are one to talk, Pedro! You have been in battle and more war more than anyone in this Palace’ I said.

He smiled a bitter smile.

‘I have never, ever advocated war except as a means of peace. How many young men, all full of promise and vitality, before the war turns them to lifeless husk after the war? A war is not a game. It is not fun. It is not thrilling. It is not a great adventure. War is not a great mystery. I know what war is Princess. Do you want me to tell you?’

I looked at the solemn face of Pedro and unconsciously I answer

‘Yes’

‘War is hell on Earth, Princess. Hell on Earth, created by man, for other men, in a field filled with pain and blood. I never like spilling blood, but I do so because sometimes I believe war is necessary in protecting our citizens but never, I believe that war should be waged unless it is the last resort, that every measure of restrain has been tried and employed. Heed me, Princess. A wise ruler does not seek war. They seek peace. War is hell. A day of battle is a day of harvest for the Dark Devil.’

‘Princess’ Isabelle remarks returns me to the present

‘Ah yes.’

I smiled as I looked at the sun set. I’ll remember what Pedro advice of me. A wise Queen, unparalleled in battle and wisdom. I wish. No!

I will become that.

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