AOH – Chapter 87

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CHAPTER 87: RETURN FINALLY

ARIAL VERMONT

BED CHAMBER

1016 FALLMONTH

I am in my bed staring at the ceiling. I am about to go to sleep but before that I tried to remember what has happened and what is my plan for tomorrow.

I returned back at the castle in the guise of midnight.

The guards nearly shoot arrows at me but I quickly lower my cloak and they see my face. Quickly they bowed and let me in

West which has been pretending to be me for this past month has been relieved from his duties.

He was summoned immediately at the council. That night I thank him for his service and reward him with 3 thousand gold. He did not want to accept it but I insist.

After all pretending to be me and pretending to be sick for a month is not easy to do. The only people that knows the truth is my friends and the council.

Helia scolded me a little for not telling her what I have planned. But how could I? That night we did not share the same bed because she was angry. Sulking, is the more apt word for it

But I could not help my excitement of learning that I may have more than just another year to live…but a chance to live a longer time.

Hope fuels me…..with more hope. Though that hope involves obtaining a dragon heart, one might even say such hope is short lived.

But if the 4 Brothers can do it during the Purge of dragons, why can’t I?

Tomorrow I had to deal with many more matters.

Matters of the court and of the region, for we have many watchful eyes and enemies are everywhere. Constant vigilance I reminded myself.

After all Oliver is back from his petitioning of the Church and the Church agree to renounce the MontBlanc.

Which means MontBlanc is excommunicated from the Vern Church and Cori Church will never support the Emperor owing to their bloody history.

There are also the reports from Zhang Liao Bao that have piled up. I need to check it and decided whether the plan is moving as I had hoped.

With that I close my eyes.

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ARIAL VERMONT

COUNCIL ROOM

I enter the council room and the lord bows. Not all is present I noted. I nodded and gestured them to take their seat. This must have been a busy month.

After all the Council during my absence was entrusted to keep my absence a secret and govern some of the new cities that begun sprouted in west border of Arrandy.

I take my place at the head of the table and begun reading reports from Leander, son of Oliver who is as talented as his father in searching for secret.

‘My lord’ Leander speaks and gives me the document. I open the document and began reading.

Renasia has formed Great Renasia and has conquered Cora and Tuca completely. This is unexpected.

Or more accurately, this never happens before.

There is some speculation that the Princess…now known to the Continent as the Goddess of War owing to her prodigious skill in warfare and her calm head in a crisis, has set her eyes on Dostov.

Such stark difference from the Princess in my timeline.

Her death in the Battle at Temple of Fire was said to be remembered even after she was defeated and even the Dark Lords were impressed.

It is said that at that battle knowing that she can no longer retreat else her people would die, she charged headlong into battle and her bravery inspired her soldier so much that they all followed her to death.

But in this timeline, instead of being known for her temper and impatience but charismatic leadership, she is known to be very wise and calm, a brilliant strategist, and combined with her extraordinary leadership, she have never lost a battle thus the tittle.

And I heard during my journey back in taverns and inn that she is likened to Rhaesa the Wise and as strong as Jahera.

Then I put down the letter and Leander hand me the other letters I need to read. Progress report and such.

There is a letter from Silas. It seems that the mastermind of the alliance has been identified.

They are hunting the mastermind right now and when that is settled he would send letters to sign a treaty.

A treaty.

That is my plan. I would hope that this treaty would promise peace for both humans and demon race.

I release a relieved breath. The other lord did not know why I release the sigh and they tensed up.

‘Is there something wrong my lord?’ Kyle asked.

‘Nothing.’ I take another parchment and Silas reports that the next move is mine. I almost smile.

Dramatic as ever.

I have never seen a man more manipulative or more talented in politics then Silas. I wondered….in the original timeline he must not have survived, because of the death of his brothers and die in the cold.

If he survived, he must have been quite the persona at that time. I am not wrong to choose him.

Though sometimes I must admit I am a bit frustrated with him. I have never won against him in cha’tur.

‘Where is the Supervisor of the North report?’ I asked and some lords scrambled around the piled scroll and parchment and handed me one letter

From: Supervisor of the North, Zhang Liao Bao.

To: The Great Lord of Arrandy, Lord Arial Vermont

Even from this I could see his flattery. I began reading his letter.

My lord, I am writing you from the Austen residence. We have successfully led the rebel army to Austen and gained their approval. Our objectives are the same. I will send you another letter in a weeks’ time.

Your Servant

Zhang Liao Bao.

I open another letter with the same flattery at the top. I skipped the flattery and read the content.

Chuguo has allied themselves with Qin solidifying their influence in the North of Vern. The central government is crumbling. Because of the Blood Brotherhood charge is taken up by the peasants and people of Eastian descent, the other Eastian populated land and Eastian Lord has secede themselves from the central government creating their own region. Shuguo has swallowed Minguo. Austen march to Zicheng and have managed to conquer the surrounding area. I enclosed to you the report of the battle.

BATTLE REPORT OF ZICHENG

Nigel Austen threw an attack against the walls immediately upon his arrival but it was easily beaten back. Frontal assault we have decided would not be the way in. That convinced Nigel that a frontal assault was indeed futile, after being advised his brothers and sisters. So he began digging trenches to prevent any breakout from the city. For the next several weeks, little happened, as is the nature of many sieges. More bad luck befell the Austen during the winter. It was much colder than usual during the winter and snow lay on the ground for many weeks and the reinforcement for Chongyang is arriving.Delays in the delivery of supplies from Shanhai Pass, coupled with the bad weather, meant the deaths of thousands of besieging soldiers. Austen had planned to take the initiative in the spring with the arrival of new reinforcements. That cut off the flow of supplies and would eventually have spelled the city’s doom. Then the governor of that region surrendered after the starvation set in.

End of report

Your Servant

Zhang Liao Bao

I look at the table and see there is many more reports that I did not yet read. To think so many things have happen in two months.

I took another letter and skip right to the contents

From: Supervisor of the North, Zhang Liao Bao.

To: The Great Lord of Arrandy, Lord Arial Vermont

Qi lords have attacked Theon region and Erjing took this opportunity to take advantage of Theon unpreparedness by also attacking them. Theon, which is one of the Caelum lords is overwhelmed with the attack and retreat back to Chongyang while Qi soldier conquers Theon and drive out Erjing. Next after their successful attack, Qi ambushed Erjing camp and killed their governor. Taiguo took this chance to conquer Erjing as they are in disarray. The Han in the South conquers Yang and Xiguo. Wei in the North conquers Xixia. House of Chu with the help of Blood Brotherhood conquer Lexandria, their leaders retreat back to the capital. Austen who rules the Taiguo region conquers the weak Shenguo. For now this is how things stand

Your Servant

Zhang Liao Bao

I set the letters down. To think the Blood Brotherhood can cause this much chaos. This means the central government has lost their rein over the states.

Then this next letter will absolutely tell me that the collapse of the central government to control them and the Vern Empire is now divided into city states.

I open the letter and my suspicion is rewarded.

From: Supervisor of the North, Zhnag Liao Bao.

To: The Great Lord of Arrandy, Lord Arial Vermont

The seven states declared independence from the central government ruling and styling themselves as King. The rescue effort, my second mission has begun. Any progress will be told in the next letter I will send you , my lord

Your Servant

Zhang Liao Bao

Quickly I take the next letter and open it.

From: Supervisor of the North, Zhnag Liao Bao.

To: The Great Lord of Arrandy, Lord Arial Vermont

After great pains and tribulation I have manage to sneak into the Imperial Palace and we have managed to rescue the Princess. About 3000 troops died that night, as I have to sacrifice them to confuse the palace guard. By now, she will arrive in another week to Arrandy. With this I asked my lord to send some reinforcement to Taiguo. The Seven states are wary against each other. For my lord information, here I list the seven states. Shuguo, Taiguo ( Austen family), Qi, Han, Wei, Chu( House of Chu), Qin and the central government Chongyang.

Your Servant

Zhang Liao Bao

With this I set the letter down. The Princess is saved. She is alive and the joy I felt is indescribable. This means the Invasion will not even happened.

I then sent a letter to the generals to send another 5 thousand troops to aid the Chu ongoing effort and for them to storm the capitals.

Surely even if Azrael has her bride returned home safely, he could not stand still knowing that the man who tries to do harm to her fiancé is safe.

I also tell Zhang Liao Bao to bribe any officials in the Capital to cooperate. This is when I know.

March to the Capital and surely the other would bend their knees to anyone who storm it. The seven states could not last long divided.

They need a central government and Chongyang knows that.

So, if we can’t change their dependence to the central government we just have to change the man controlling the central government.

Now that the Princes is alive the Emperor have nothing more for me to fear. I would have gone there myself if not for Harald in the Southern border.

I also need help. I ask for ink and write a letter to Adrian asking him for some reinforcement to help Chu effort in Vern.

I hope he replied with the most urgency.

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IN A SECRET CHAMBER OF THE CASTLE

ARIAL VERMONT

I am practicing today, learning, and remembering what I learned from the books I read at the Temple.

It has helped me understanding certain things about my limit and the way to make the flow of my internal energy more smooth and refined.

I have learned not to be bounded in the execution of the technique and lose myself in the technique.

Releasing the internal energy at the right time and not suppressing it, let it flow like water, ride it out like the wind.

My technique that I created the Dragon Palm has shown more power and refinement of such power that I almost couldn’t believe it.

I sit in meditation pose and let the energy flow, closing my eyes.

From the kidneys to the stomach and then to the lungs and heart. Change …current state of disharmony to the harmony of the internal energy that is flowing to my body.

First by easing up in the bodies.

This process of clear imbalances, and energizing, rejuvenating to the body, mind and spirit and as I recently found out ease the pain that I have.

I can feel the air around me, the slow wind breeze entering so stealthily from the gaps and holes, the smell of dust in this chamber, amplified, my ears heard every single sound, the sound of water dripping from leaves, sound from the hall of my castle, noise I shouldn’t even heard and the words of the Southern Healer once again enter my mind.

You are probably the strongest in terms of internal energy in this martial art world rivaling almost me he said, his expression were a mixture of joy and amazement.

The problem is I did not know to regulate such power and as such I have never been able to bring it out.

It seems only I am not aware of this.

I am aware that my internal energy is always higher than everyone else. I just don’t know how high.

No wonder my enemies always look at me with such fear in their eyes.

Southern Healer in joy of meeting me, the next generation of martial artist, though I did insist on him, that I have nothing to do with the martial art world, still he insist me to learn the Five Ying Channels and give me the book though I do return back the other books.

A week after learning it my manipulation of object has tremendously raised a level.

Usually I could levitate some sword but by the end of the week I have managed to control 10 swords, making it hover in midair for an hour.

And each day the times become longer and the amount of swords and objects I can levitate with my internal energy is beginning to multiply.

Today I managed to control a 100 sword. I could not believe my stupidity. If I learned that my power host such power before, I alone could charge into battle alone.

A squad will not even be my match.

Even a thousand I don’t think I will have any problems if I learn this a long time ago. If only I find a teacher.

Because in martial arts there is no martial arts that is used to fight in a group. This is why an accomplished martial art expert can be defeated with an army.

Why?

Because martial arts used in the military is for attacking, not defending.

You can unleash an expert into the battlefields and order him to kill as many as you can but in the end an army needs to finish the job.

There is the sieging, the battle and the formation. Martial art is selfish.

I remember my thoughts before. I was wrong. If you have enough internal energy and technique, you can defeat a thousand troops alone…..now I’m not so doubtful of Levitia stories.

For now I am waiting for Silas letter and the arrival of the Princess. They are to escort her immediately to my castle and informed me immediately when the Princess arrive.

Vern on the other hand is plagued with so many problems that….. and suddenly the feel of the air disappeared the sound receded.

I focused my attention again.

And then like a fish gasping for water, the sound once again comes alive, the clarity comes and I inhale and exhale my breath in an orderly manner. And for that day, I only meditate for there is a lot of things I need to learn and prepare if I am to get a dragon heart.

With that my day ended.

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COUNCIL ROOM

ARIAL VERMONT

Today I assembled my courtiers in the council room to debate matter of importance. My marriage.

As long as I could remember, the moment I was appointed to be the Duke, my courtiers would not stop but talk of my marriage and so here today I want to dispel such notion that I am impotent or that I like men more than woman to my courtiers.

‘Send a letter to the Lord of Althea that I asked for his noble permission to quicken the day of my marriage with his daughter.” I said.

Leander quickly obeys.

According to the agreement between my father and him, I would be married to her at 1017 one more year at the middle of that year but I too wanted this wedding to be quicker and I think Helia feels the same.

Althea region by now is enjoying increasing wealth.

Given the Duke overweening pride and ambition, it is likely that he would have built magnificent residences for his family.

Pride and ambition fan by my family and my family is also fortunate in that Helve Althea is from a Kingly line, though faded through time, but which still gives me legitimacy.

I am always known as new aristocracy, rich merchants turn to noble as some old nobility would surely say.

I have been once to the castle at Seaworth.

The castle is built of wood and ten turn to stone brick and stood atop a large mound, towering over the rest of the town and the ports and the beautiful white sandy beaches that decorate the beautiful part of the South.

Its rooms were structured according to a strict hierarchy: The first storey was on the surface of the ground, where were cellars and granaries, and great boxes, tuns, casks, and other domestic utensils.

In the storey above were the dwelling and common living-rooms of the residents, in which were the larders, the rooms of the bakers and butlers, and the great chamber in which the lord and his wife slept.

Though now Helve slept alone, never remarrying as many lord always do when they lost their wife.

His fidelity is one that I hope I can emulate. Adjoining this is a private room, the dormitory of the waiting maids and children.

In the inner part of the great chamber was a certain private room, where at early dawn or in the evening or during sickness or at time of blood-letting, or for warming the maids and weaned children, they used to have a fire

In the upper storey of the house were garret rooms, in which on the one side the sons (when they wished it), on the other side the daughters (because they were obliged), 4 of the lord of the house used to sleep.

In this storey also the watchmen and servants appointed to keep the house took their sleep at some time or other.

High up on the east side of the house, in a convenient place, was the chapel, which was made like unto the tabernacle of St John in the Holy Land owing to the money I lend to Helve so he could make a favourable impression to the Church authorities and some works of art  in its ceiling and painting.

There were stairs and passages from storey to storey, from the house into the kitchen, from room to room, and again from the house into the loggia, where they used to sit in conversation for recreation, and again from the loggia into the oratory.

This castle belonged to the Helve, so it is likely that, as the daughter of such distinguished noble house, Helia would have known even greater luxury.

As well as encouraging the commercial development of his region, Helve also capitalized upon Althea immense strategic importance.

Its situation enabled the duke to hold the balance of power between the Vangua to the south, the dukes of Arrandy to the east; owing to the passage and land that both of these factions need to traverse thus making alliance with them is an easier way.

They control one of the meeting points of the North and South. This made Althea a power to be reckoned.

It is fortunate that they do not have any great armies and have no offences with me personally and by sealing our alliance with marriage not only my influence is widen, it will also benefit Althea in now, that they are guarded by the dragons ferocious troops.

A man of great power I could describe him but held back by the purity of his heart and his kind heart which stay his hand for making conflicts and  a loyal man to his family.

Grey haired yet possesses the vigour of youth.

Then I smiled.

So different from his daughter. I know Helia. She is wild in her own ways, rebellious at times and at times sweet without a fault.

That is the charm she possesses to make me fall for her.

‘The venue, my lord?’ Leander question bring me back.

‘Church of St Afael in Acro.’ Leander nodded and he resumes writing. He then shows it to me.

I nodded and told him to send the letters.

With this, my marriage with Helia will be quickened and after the wedding, I need to leave to the Dark Lands to search for the dragon heart.

I will not let Helia be a widow. My training all this day, is all for the sake of surviving, now that peace can be seen.

I doubt the Demon Lords will seek war now, not now when it has been revealed to them that it is a great conspiracy and when I returned Arianna to them the Demon Lord will surely be graceful and accepted the Treaty.

Marriage and then I will seek the cure.

This is why I trained every day. To make sure I can defeat the dragon. I have already sent request to borrow Shadowslasher from Adrian.

I said I need to borrow it and he reluctantly agreed.

Here’s to peace.

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