The sound of music could be heard in the squares. Stall filled the alley leading to the main square.
Today is the day of the victory ceremony. Every citizen has happy expressions. The newbie players are also swept up by the mood.
Delegations from other countries have crowded the palace square since morning to offer gifts and congratulation for surviving the crisis.
Though there are some crisis with the Orcs in the morning. Some citizens screamed when looking at Gruk face in the morning.
Considering he is coming to the palace with his giant club, one could understand the citizen shock and fear
Though fortunately, Gruk just smiled.
However that did not help. After all Gruk smile look like a psychopath ready to kill its victim.
Coupled with the fact the giant club on his back is marked with fresh blood, his smile did not help.
Well, it was settled after General Bradheim explained the situations to the frightened citizens.
With his cavalry entering the Capital, the citizens could feel calm.
Armor horses and armored black soldiers riding on horseback on the street in a grand procession showcase the might of Vanheim to the world.
The flag of Vanheim waved gracefully in the topmost tower of the castles all around the capital city.
Nobles from each state of the Kingdom also came to the palace to watch the ceremony else they might offend the new King.
Usually they would just send a few letters or make some excuses not to attend.
But defeat after defeat in the hands of King George and Aero, the nobles knew the trend of the world is not with them so they need to tread carefully.
None of them dare disobey not when George has manage to put the military in his control.
The nobles becomes meek and Vanheim is becoming stronger which strengthen and increases King George prestige.
Scholars praised King George deed and accomplishment and gaining the citizens trust.
This shows the influence that George has amassed after Aero successfully put George on the throne.
Now, that George has both the support and adoration from the people the nobles couldn’t even raise their voice to the King anymore.
Vanheim is beginning to become more powerful and at the same time…..dangerous.
The ceremony will begin with rewarding the people who has contributed in the Northern expedition.
When it was decided Dan was eager to know his reward since he contributed a lot in the battlefield.
The victory ceremony as it has been decreed will be held in the palace square.
After the ceremony there will be feast, party and music like any great victory ceremony. An occasion Gruk seems to enjoy.
From the moment he came to the Palace, he was asking for foods and drinks. Aero was amused seeing this.
Is he too much deep in his character as an Orc, or is Gruk in real life like to drink and dance?
Either way, Aero had no time to ask Gruk of this matter.
King George spared no expenses for this ceremony.
This is a joyous occasion.
His country that was plagued by many problems before is beginning to get back on its feet, stronger than ever.
And it’s all thanks to Aero.
His friend and his advisor. Without him, George might have not achieved what he achieves today.
He will give Aero what he deserves.
Then the ceremony began. The horns were blown. The priest come and chanted the Hymns to honor the Gods.
Sacrifices were given to the fires and the name of the Gods were invoked. The music is then played.
After that the music ends and a few influential Elders in their community spoke of the Gods, the deeds of Heroes and the need to honor the fallen heroes and the living ones.
The nobles are clapping as etiquette dictates.
Then it was the main event.
The announcer announces the arrival of the King.
Then a figure appeared on the constructed podium that houses a replica throne exactly like that of in the Throne Room in the palace.
Everyone could see the king walking to the throne to begin the ceremony.
The throne is located on a high platform in the Throne Room.
The members of the court stand guard below and when the king is presiding, only he, his family, and his council may sit.
All others must stand or kneel.
But today is a special occasion.
These are not normal men in his court today.
They are the heroes of the Kingdom and George intends to treat them as such. The Throne Room is decorated with beautiful tapestries of art depicting heroic acts of brave heroes.
A new tapestry was added yesterday.
It depicts a warrior slashing like a Mad God, raging in the battlefield dyeing the painting red.
It was a depiction of Aero in the battlefield.
After listening from eyewitness report of the troops and the scout, King George intends to honor Aero by putting a painting of his deed in the Battle of Coro in the Throne room.
Those who sees the painting recognizes who it is.
Aero is truly being honored by King George. His reputation in the court is bound to soar. By now, no one in Vanheim does not know of Aero.
The players who are lucky enough to get invited also had a tinge of jealousy towards Aero for garnering the attention of the nobles.
There are many players that didn’t join or migrated to other Kingdoms regretting their decision.
If only they fought in the war maybe they too would be honored like Aero.
But talking about that now is too late.
The ceremony is beginning. The large palace square quieted. The only voice that could be heard was the King.
First, George awarded the soldiers that showed considerable courage and fought bravely for Vanheim.
They were rewarded with money and raise of their contribution to Peasants. Some who killed many enemies have even managed to raise their contribution level to Lord.
They were enfeoffed with some lands and were given titles of nobility.
The one who was lucky to get that kind of recognition was duo archer in Raina division. Then the captains who led the soldiers were also given the same rewards.
Some were given the nobility title.
Some were given money and precious weapons.
Then the other soldiers of every rank that contributed to the victory were also rewarded handsomely.
Considering that they have a lot of loot and large tract of lands that they got from the big battle, Vanheim can afford to shower its people with lavish gifts.
And finally the main event.
The commanders that lead the soldiers and push to victory against a larger superior force.
Bradheim, Dan, Amy, Raina and Aero.
But first the conferment of the state. King George look towards the Veranis delegation which include King Philip.
He smiles and King Phillip nodded
King Philip was already waiting for too long. Many delegates from other countries have heard about this. But still, they need to confirm it.
‘King Phillip’ George said and Philip come in front of the throne and bowed a little looking downwards.
Everyone knows what George is trying to do thus Philip bowing was not considered a humiliation. He is bowing to the one he believes will become the Emperor of the Vilajeri.
“King of Veranis, Lord of Veranis, Duke of Vella, Protector of His Kingdom, Philip II, rise” George then summoned Philip to come closer.
Philip stepped close to the Throne. He kneeled. George was satisfied looking at the other delegation of other kingdoms who were trying their best to appear calm.
Today was not only the day of his kingdom victory ceremony, it is also the day where he will declare his ambition fo0r the world to see.
Then George continued.
“I am King George Vanheim, Ruler of Vanheim and It’s Sovereign, Duke of Vanheim, Ruler of Silmar and Bretten, hereby confer the state of Erdanis to you. May this act of goodwill enhance the relations of our kingdoms.”
Actually there is a piece of good news after the Battle of Coro conclude and Bradheim went to Silmar.
After Bradheim conquered Silmar easily, realizing that Vetten barely had any soldiers defending Bretten they quickly took the state without much resistance.
The matter of prisoners of war is handed to Aero to deal with it. There is no one wiser said King George when they were discussing about the POWs.
Back to the ceremony.
George handed a parchment of land deeds. It is proof that Erdanis state belongs to Veranis and it will be recorded in history.
The Vanheim court erupted with applause.
Especially the Veranis delegate.
Niovar delegates just clapped unenthusiastically. Karak Federation offers it’s congratulation to the Veranis delegate while hiding their true motives.
Gerad delegates just gritted their teeth but did not dare say anything.
“I, Philip II King of Veranis, Sovereign of Its People, Lord of Veranis, Duke of Vella, and Protector of My Kingdom accept this act of goodwill. May our relation prospers to an age of peace”
This marks a new age for both of those Kingdoms and ultimately made those two nations allied more closely than ever.
King Philip retreated and beside him was his son Alexander. Smiles filled the faces of Veranis delegation.
Now it is time for the stars of the war to be rewarded. First King George summons his brother.
“To my brother Bradheim. For his enduring perseverance and his talents on the battlefield I appoint him as Marshall. I will also appoint him to be the vanguard for the attack against Vetten”
Marshall is a title of importance. It is the councilor in charge of the military. They are also expected to lead the armies if the King decides not to.
In other words, King George is showing his trust towards his brother and he also did well in putting down the rumors of his bad relation with his older brother.
“I accept the reward, brother” Then Bradheim stepped backward from the throne.
He was smiling. Clearly he is happy and he felt like the knot in his heart was untied. He was built for war.
This is obvious.
But he also understand that the reason why George gives him the reign on the military was because he is showing to him, he is trusting him.
Bradheim while he did not entirely agree with his Royal Father on the fact he choose George, he knew he could no longer rebel.
Since he already had the chance to rebel but he did not, such chance will never come again.
After all if he rebels now, he will not be benefiting the Kingdom, instead he will be harming the Kingdom.
Meanwhile the ceremony is ongoing
“Heroine Raina, rise”
“For leading the archers in slowing the march of our enemies, I reward you a mansion in the capital city and 100 thousand gold as reward and five thousand gold stipend for each month. You will be given the title Countess Raina of Berthold. You will also be given the Dragon Heartstring Bow that was passed down in the Royal family. Will you accept?
“I accept Your Grace” Raina bowed and put her hand at her heart signifying loyalty.
The archer’s division cheer nearly raised the ceiling.
They were screaming and whistling. The King smiles a bit before some of the old minster glared at the archer division and they slowly slow down their voice
At last there was silence again.
“Commander Dan, rise”
“Your Grace” Dan is not just a commander in Vanheim army. He is like a friend to George, following George since the days of his exile.
“You have proved to the other Kingdoms that our might is unbeatable. For that I appoint you to be Marquis of Zantleaf. From now on, you will be known as Marquis Dan of Zantleaf. You will be given 150 thousand gold as reward; ten thousand gold stipend a month, and a residence will be constructed in the way you like. You will be given the Golden Armor that once belonged to the Hero of Old. Will you accept?”
“Yes, Your Grace” Dan said smiling, as he could not hide his excited and happy expression. Following Aero was one of the wisest decision he made in his life.
The troops were beside themselves. Their commander is now nobility. The players were also happy of Dan achievements.
Many of them bonded with Dan during the expedition. Dan is after all a freindly person. A little trusting and sometimes clumsy but it is this quality that endear him to people.
Next was Amy.
“Heroine Amy rise”
“For supporting the troops and providing solace and comfort for the injured and the dead, for saving the lives of my people, I give you my utmost gratitude”
Some of the NPCs were tearing up.
Probably they have families that died in the war.
“For your service, I will reward you the Recipe Book for Potions from the Secret Archive. You will also be rewarded 100 thousand gold. I will appoint you as the Royal Physician. From now on you will be called Lady Amy. Will you accept?”
“Yes, Your Grace” Amy accepts the title
“May the book help you in saving more lives in the future”
The din of the cheers was deafening. Most of them come from Amy fan club. Yeah,who would thought that brute girl has so many boys pining for her.
Aero noticed that Amy was looking at him, staring while Sarah whispered something to her. Sarah was next.
She was rewarded a mansion,70 thousand gold, 7 divine herbs that belong to the Royal family and the title of Lady Sarah, Baroness of Certes in the vicinity of Bretten.
It was one of the villages there. Many ministers came to her and congratulate her. So is the delegates.
Even Philip offered her congratulation. He seems to be very fond of her. Without her effort in persuading King Philip Aero plan would not work.
Then George raised his hand. The room was silent. Everyone is waiting for this moment.
The most important.
The main character.
The King face was beaming proudly at Aero
“Aero, my friend, come” This kind of such familiar term come out form the mouth of the King signifying how important Aero in George mind.
Aero instead of stepping humbly strutted to the Throne. Yet George didn’t think of it as an insult.
He smiles looking at King George and King George smiles looking at him. They both understand each other.
“You have helped me more than once. You have helped me when I was weak and powerless. You have taken the burdens of my Kingdom and carried it for me. For that you have my eternal gratitude.”
Then George continued his conferment speech.
“I raise you to the status of Duke. You will rule the state of Bretten. You will be rewarded to see the Secret Archive. I confer to you the title The General Who Pacified the North. You will be given 400 thousand gold and a stipend of thirty thousand gold stipend a month. You will also be given the Howling Dragon Saber that belonged to one of my ancestors Alain IV.”
The crowd gasped.
The Howling Dragon saber is one of the Kingdom’s regalia. Alain IV is famous for slaying a dragon with that sword.
For George to part with it, Aero must have been pretty close with the King.
“From now on, you will be known as Duke Aero. Will you accept?”
That is what everyone expects to hear.
After all who in their right mind will reject the King gifts.
What has two thumbs and don’t want to stuck handling state affairs all the time. This guy.
Aero was thinking in his head.
“Forgive me, Your Grace. I cannot.”
Gasp of shocks can be heard in the room.
“I’m happy to take the other rewards but appointing me to Duke is hardly appropriate.”
“Why? You have done many great deeds for this Kingdom. You will find no one will object to this.” King George looked sullen.
“There are many places I would like to go Your Grace. If you appoint me Duke I will have to manage the state. And I’ll do it without fail. But if that happens I will have no time to travel”
To be honest George wanted to stop Aero from wandering to other Kingdoms.
“This is my request, Your Grace” The King sighed
“Alright, then. Then the other rewards will be bestowed to you” said George.
“Thank you Your Grace. Your generosity will never be forgotten” Aero replied and returned to his place.
“Now that’s settled, let the feast begins”
The sounds of music instrument can be heard in every street of the capital city. Aromatic cooking fills the palace halls.
Laughter could be heard. Jokes were exchanged. Congratulations were offered. Aero saw Dan competing in hand wrestling with Victor, one of the duo archer in Raina units.
They looked like they would break each other arm. Victoria is seen chatting up with Raina talking about bows probably.
Those twin siblings only interest are bows.
They are magnificent in the war. Not many survived during the war. They are the lucky ones.
No, luck doesn’t have anything to do with it.
They were capable.
Everywhere you can see people rejoicing. Gruk and Bradheim are having a drinking contest in the squares.
The rowdy Orcs keep encouraging their tribe leader to drink, drink, like it was a chanting
Bradheim troops are not any better.
They both will have a bad hangover next morning.
Aero then silently, without anyone realizing moved to somewhere quieter. He finally arrived at the balcony.
While people are rejoicing he wanted to be alone, watching the stars.
“I wish you could have been here. The sun is beautiful, the moon is elegant and the wind is soothing. Sound of music filled the roads and the stars twinkling on the night skies. Life….is beautiful. But, mainly, I wish you could have been here.”
Aero said wistfully while looking at the full moon.
It was beautifu—
“Who?” Aero reminiscing about old memories is interrupted with a question
Aero turned to look back and saw Amy. And for a moment he saw his Amy. The one that left.
The one who sent him into hell over and over again, thinking about her. The one…..that he felt most sorry about. Because it was too late.
“Why are you here? Go celebrate” Aero raised his tone without meaning to.
“Who?” Amy asked again.
“Who do you wish to be here?” She heard what he said. And for a moment Aero was flustered
Calming himself he answers
“Someone who is not here anymore”
“Then, isn’t that stupid?” Amy said
“Is it?” Aero ask back.
“Yes, why not wish for people that are here.”
“Who would I wish for then?”
“How about wish for me?” she said with a low voice that Aero barely could heard it
Amy said while blushing. Her cheeks were red. It was the most adorable expression Aero has seen from Amy.
It skips a beat, my heart.
This is weird. I thought Amy hated me. Why is she suddenly like this?
“Maybe I don’t want to wish for you”
“Why not?” Amy challenged.
“You’re stubborn” I offered
“But in a good way” Amy countered. Aero shakes his head
“No, that is inaccurate. I’m challenging.” She corrected
Aero is confused.
“What do you want Amy?”
“I like you, Aero”
She said it so fiercely and so directly that Aero could not help but feel the seriousness of her words.
It was also so sudden. Without warning or without signs suddenly she opens with that.
Aero face began reddening.
“Yeah, I like you too” Aero just brushed it off.
“You know that is not what I meant”
It’s one thing to like a person. It’s another to feel someone else like you, and to feel a responsibility toward that affection.
Because he knows how heavy that responsibility is. And he remembers that again. A hospital. A woman soaked wet in water.
Blood pooling on the floor.
“Don’t joke around Amy” Eh said to Amy while at the same time purging that memory from resurfacing
“I’m not joking”
Aero believing Amy is just joking is determined to see how far Amy would go. So he comes closer to Amy.
Their distance is so close that he could hear her breathing.
“What would you do if I kissed you right now?”
At first she was flustered and shyly look down. But then she look back up, staring into his eyes.
Amy stared at his face and then looked at his lips then she said
“I would kiss you back.”
That was not the response Aero expected.
“Ok, enough of this. I’m going to the hall.”
Just when Aero is about to step down the stairs, Amy held his hand and pull Aero to her. They were inches with each other. Aero could hear Amy rasped breathing.
“What do you thi—“
Then she kissed him.
And what do you think the kiss felt like?
Have you ever lost yourself in a kiss? That is what he felt. Lost. In that one moment he forgot about anything
It was sweet. That is what he felt when her lips touches his. She kissed him desperately and passionately.
Aero could not help but be entranced. And then without meaning to he kissed her back.
Licking the sides and corners of her mouth, and he delivered it back to her, that passion he felt, over and over.
For that moment everything faded away.
Everything other than them become dark background while only two of them were shining with light in this whole dark universe.
Only you and me.
Then she stopped.
They were both gasping for air. And she looked at him. A look of a predator that finally got its prey. She smirked.
“Why did you—“
“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”
She said matter of factly. Then she stepped down back to the festivities smugly.
I could not move. I was frozen in place, just looking at her back.
I knew she was brave but I didn’t know she had a sassy side. Aero smiled.
And I think I like it.