Edited by Jiem, I miss her.
Note 1: Please click on the character name for their illustrations, if any.
Note 2: Corrected the Protoss elder princess’ name: Micha’el; corrected the Protoss younger princess’ name: Charlotte; corrected Symbia prince’s name: Rivera.
Note 3: An editable text of this chapter, click here.
Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Marfa, Jack, Wilder, Moya: Cohen’s childhood friends and firm supports.
- Fischer Summers: Cohen’s friend and the prince of the Swabia Empire.
- Charlotte Knarch: The Protoss younger princess.
- Micha’el Knarch: The Protoss elder princess.
- Venina & Eve: Protoss maidens.
- David: The Protoss God of War.
“Prince Fischer, it’s your turn. I have hopes that you’re able to finish the arrangement for us.” Princess Charlotte said, “Though, it is easier said than done. I wonder how do you plan to accomplish the task?”
Everyone looked at Fischer while having the same train of thought.
“I won’t do anything to it.” Fischer moved one step forward and said with a faint smile.
A hint of scorn appeared from Prince LeToux’s expression while I discreetly let out a sigh.: Fischer’s answer was indeed a plausible solution to the matter at hand.
“Nothing? You have already agreed on being a part of the ikebana, Prince Fischer.” Princess Charlotte looked at him and said, “Could you state your reasoning behind your decision? If you’re able to convince us, I’ll allow you to do as you wish.”
“Sure.” Fischer said, “I’m prepared to explain.”
“Similar to everyone present, I am a fellow lover of ikebana as my royal mother greatly adored it. I can recall the times I helped my mother tend to the garden during my childhood.” Fischer placed both of his hands behind his back and approached the stone table, “Flowers are most stunning when they have just bloomed; the blooming of such flowers bursts with shades ranging from brilliant violets to vermillion reds and emanate a fragrance that could be heavy or refreshingly light. These flowers may be awaiting the moment they blossom or awaiting their approaching death. Regardless, the raising of flowers require arduous care for a long period of time. However, without the need to painstakingly await for them to blossom, the elation when one witnesses it blooming would be significantly less.”
“The place they belong in is within the earth of the ground. Only the soil can provide them with sufficient minerals and nutrients to healthily grow. Surely, there may be times their beauty isn’t as dazzling as we expect, but they have done their best to live and grow. We feel that it is a shame, but they are not an existence made for perfection and instead exist to be appreciated. Though I understand that the flower arrangement allows them to portray a flawless beauty, such an act is against the laws of nature. There lies no beauty in lifeless flora… ”
“How dare you!” Prince LeToux exclaimed, “Fischer, how dare you talk to Her Grace in that manner!”
“How dare you!” I gazed at Prince LeToux coldly, “How dare you interrupt Prince Fischer’s speech”
“Silence!” Princess Charlotte seized the quarreling and asked Fischer, “Do you truly believe it to be so?”
“I do.” Fischer answered, “To me, going against nature is not something admirable.”
“Well said. However…” Princess Charlotte said while shaking her head, “I do not believe you. I believe it’s merely your excuse to avoid partaking in the ikebana.”
“Therefore, in the name of the Protoss Princess, I order you to arrange these flowers regardless of it being an act against nature!” Princess Charlotte’s order astonished me as I had no idea why she was treating Fischer like that, “If you wish to avoid killing the flowers, you will have to make do with the existing materials on this table.”
I glimpsed over at the remaining scraps on the table and couldn’t help myself but to bitterly lament in my head: the things Prince Rivera picked were already distasteful; the majority of them were deadwood or flowers with broken stalks. There was barely anything left to choose from after Prince LeToux used up the few good ones amongst the pile. Even if Fischer were to scavenge from the pile a flower or two, there was nothing he could do to improve the already completed ikebana.
“I will do as you have ordered.” Fischer gave up on any further arguments and fetched the pair of gold scissors from the stone table.
He then peered at the vase and heavily plunged the scissors down onto the side of the vase!
The crowd was astonished. After continuous smashing with the pair of scissors, a large hole was gaping through the side of the vase.
Unlike us, Princess Charlotte had not shown any signs of surprise. She watched Fischer’s show with immense interest. In that instant, the desire I had for her was immediately nil.
Fischer put down the scissors and picked up a broken flower shoot from the pile and stuck it into the new hole he made in the vase. The broken shoot drooped downwards as the remaining young and green leaves swayed back and forth.
Fischer fetched yet another broken flower before sighing and exchanged a look with me.
A thought struck me and I immediately understood what he planned to do.
“Let me help you!” I passed my giant ‘flower’ to Wilder who had been standing next to me and ran to the pavilion. I exerted barely any effort in breaking off a piece of jade from the jade staircase. After cleaning it, I brought it back and set it upright on the stone table.
Several eyes gazed at us, including Princess Charlotte’s. No one knew what we were planning on doing.
Fischer put the vase atop the block of jade I retrieved and continued his work.
At last, the ikebana presented to us was one that included several crude-looking shoots that were of varying length and a few stalks of dead flowers and grass. The purpose of the flora that was once utilized by Prince Rivera to amplify the beauty of his centerpiece flower was changed by Fischer’s work. In place of the previous pretentious aloofness and purposeful sentiments was a scene that portrayed the reality of life. It was sorrow. A sorrow that emerged from leaving the soil that once gave it life and the helplessness of being born to live a life of frailty. It was an indignance towards the prejudice it experienced that no human or even God could account for.
Fischer did not alter a single thing placed within the neck of the vase, but he had already changed the overall look of the ikebana. The previous grace and elegance portrayed by the sole centerpiece flower were now made to appear as if it was in a desperate struggle to escape the fate of the dead flora below it. Alas, they could not break free from it! In retrospect, Fischer had caused the previous design to come off as bland and preposterous!
Fischer stepped back without uttering a single word; his work was his answer.
By the wind of the breeze, a few petals drifted down and made the scene look even more sorrowful.
“Your Grace, I’ve finished.” Fischer gazed at Princess Charlotte and said.
“So I’ve seen…” Princess Charlotte pondered and said, “I’ve grown weary. The banquet will be held in the atrium later. You are all dismissed! ”
This chapter is originally published on wuxianation dot com.
Then she glimpsed at me and continued, “Bureaucrats of the empire are not invited.”
“Of course we aren’t You’re not serving dragon meat, I suppose. Dearie me, I mean no offense. If that Ray dragon came to know of my thoughts, he’d murder me. Speaking of which, I wonder how that young white dragon is faring lately.” I thought of all these secretly.
The maidens brought us to a giant room to lounge in.
After a while, Fischer was summoned to attend the banquet. My brothers were then taken away by Princess Micha’el for testing. I was left in the giant room to go wild with the thoughts in my mind.
When they finally returned, Fischer was unlike my brothers and kept on staring at the ceiling, speechless. I intended to inquire with him about the details of the banquet, but we currently weren’t in a place suitable to talk about such matters. As such, I left him be.
That persisted until a Protoss maiden informed us we were to leave and attend the titling ceremony by the God of War.
Firstly, all who were to be titled changed into the suits of armors offered by the War God; even Fischer was not an exception. Fischer’s figure was slightly thinner in the fitting gold armor. I made do with the one I was already wearing with my long sword hanging by my side.
There was a total of four who were to be titled today: the three noble princes and the lucky me. The others were only allowed to watch the ceremony take place.
In a relatively small plaza located outside of the War God’s palace, the three princes and I were commanded to fall down to our knees and kneel towards the Protoss King’s palace located from afar. Though I was reluctant to kneel, I complied with the order, anyways.
“This will be your sacred titling ritual, which is also the highest military rank title possible for anyone to attain; including the members of royalty! This is a chance of a lifetime!” The War God eyed us with his sharp and fierce gaze, “After this ceremony, you will become a true Knight of Protoss. This title is a reward and commendation for the deeds you’ve accomplished!”
“Throughout the alliance, people who have been titled as a Protoss Knight- including you four- total to a number of ten! It is a title of utmost honor, as well as immense responsibility!” The War God continued with his dignified voice, “To me, I think that all of you are still not deserving of this title. However, thanks to His Protoss Majesty’s benevolence, he has decided to encourage you all with the bestowment of this title. Don’t ever think that you will be on an equal footing with the temple High Priests, or abuse your right of consulting a Protoss member! If I, by any chance, know of anyone who dares act in a manner unworthy of this title, I will release him of this name myself!”
“Now, we may begin!” The powerful and mighty looking War God whipped out his giant golden sword and place it upright in front of his chest, “I SWEAR!”
“I SWEAR!” I drew my sword as the War God had done.
David eyed our bodies and said, “Upon my honor, knights are filled with courage!”
“Upon my honor, knights are filled with courage!”
The War God nodded and continued, “Harbor cause for the greater good!”
“Harbor cause for the greater good!”
“Pledge to help the common!”
“Vow to defend those who cannot defend themselves!”
“Uphold the truth of light and defeat the evil Asmodians!”
David allowed us to rise after the vow was pledged.
“From this moment onwards, you are the Knights of Protoss titled by the God of Light! Young as you may be, you have earned the qualifications to assume a vital position in the coming war against the Asmodians.” The War God said with a softened tone, “Every single Protoss Knight has been titled by me, and they have all achieved glorious merits without exception! None of them had ever failed us! As of today, the four of you carry the weight of this title; I hope you all are worthy of its magnitude! ”
“Yes, sir!” The four of us said in unison, “In the name of the Protoss Knight!”
“Well said.” The War God nodded, “Your residence within the Heaven Island has come to an end. I’ll give you a moment to rest before you are dismissed!”
Was it over? But, we had yet to meet the Protoss King! David had already turned around and left.
It was currently a period of time dedicated for the princes and empire officials to share their acquired knowledge and experiences. However, as the relations between us were akin to the harmony between water and fire, this dedicated time slot was utterly wasted.
The two Protoss maidens that brought us in earlier approached us after a short moment to end the awkward situation.
“May everyone present follow me.”
A hint of a smile appeared on my face as I purposely slowed down and stayed behind at the end of the group with my friends I had noticed one of the maidens was Eve.
By the time we at reached the Mountain of Light, we Swabians had left a great distance between ourselves and the people that were walking near the front of the group. Eve- similar to when we had first arrived- walked behind us.
“My dearest Goddess, Eve,” I approached her, “May I introduce my friends to you?”
(What fun will there be if we made our every intention clear?)
“Because… they’re all my best bros!” I was almost hindered by her question, and I had always not been good at dealing with unpredictable women, “There’s more happiness to share with each additional friend, right?”
“That is considered to be one reason. Continue,”
(Man… she’s gotten so rigid.)
“I believe each friend has their own unique personality, right?” I searched hard for words to say, “Friend bring to you a multitude of merits: there are some you can have a chat with, and some you could have fun with. The help offered by your friends, as well as the act of helping said friends would also bring to you joy…”
“Viceroy Cohen Kheda,” Eve glimpsed at me, “I find that the reasons behind your proposal are poor.”
“Er… “ I was left speechless whilst all my friends walking behind me laughed.
“Regardless,” Eve made a light smile and said, “They have been accepted. Do as you wish!”
“My Lord, could you not play jokes on me?” I commented quietly over the fact that I had been tricked by her again, “I was embarrassed by you in front of my bros.”
“Nope.” Eve said in a serious tone, “Humiliating you is the source of my happiness.”
“You… you… I… I…”
“By the way, I’ll give you a kind reminder.” Eve stuck to me again, “I don’t appreciate joyous matters that come to me so easily. Should there be a day such a thing occurs between you and me, our friendship will be abolished.”
“Well… that’ll be hard to achieve, my lord!” I argued, “It’s not fair! At times you are a maiden, yet in others, you have the authority to personally execute me. I cannot be any more embarrassed by you!”
“There is no issue regarding status,” Eve said, “I only give concern to what I want. If you are incapable of offering it, I may execute myself, too.”
“I… is… is that extent not considered to be unduly?”
“It is not when compared to your previous opinions.” Eve said plainly, “In fact, I have decided to bestow your friends with the garments you had chosen for them after witnessing your passionate act. I will not refuse a proposal with such zeal.”
I was certain about one thing when it came to this Protoss Princess: no matter her being a Protoss or Asmodian, she as a woman would never be able to find a lover!
“Fischer!” I dragged a certain someone and said hastily, “Male! Eighteen, unmarried. The number one bachelor in Swabia. If you’re unhappy at times, he’s totally worthy to be kicked for it. Humiliating his royal blood will remove any unpleasantries from you in the shortest time possible.”
“Eve… my lord!” Fischer said helplessly, “Nice to meet you.”
“You too, Fischer. Call me Eve. Don’t worry, I’m not used to abusing a royal heir.” Eve said, “Take this key; what I have for you is within that room.”
“Appreciated!” Fischer received the silver key from her and said, “And, if you truly feel unhappy one day, I suggest to start venting your fury by smacking the empire viceroy officials…”
“A splendid idea. I will keep it in mind.”
“Go away!” I pushed Fischer away and grabbed another one of my brothers, “This guy, Wilder, is the best at saying things against any other opinions! He’ll drive you insane every time…”
“Boss! When have I ever rebutted anyone?” Wilder was certainly not content with my comment, “How are you, Eve! Cohen looks impressive now, right? In actuality, I was the boss during our childhood…”
“Wilder, right? I’m interested in your story. Do tell me about it some other time.”
To avoid such classified information from being revealed to her, I pushed Wilder aside and grabbed Moya, “This is Moya. He’s the most prudent, responsible and caring guy you’ll ever meet.”
“Hello!” Moya greeted.
Before Moya could say anything, I reached out for… for… for no one.
“Eve, hello!” I turned back to Eve and found that Jack had already sneaked up beside Eve and started his conversation, “I’m Jack! I’m the youngest and the most obedient…”
“Jack, right?” Eve said deeply, “Take caution in never turning into someone like Viceroy Cohen when you are older.”
“I understand, I’ll remember that. Lord Eve, your feathers are stunning…”
By the time we reached the valley where the transportive magic field was located, Eve had a full understanding of all my friends, especially about Jack who had a babyish face. He would constantly stare at Eve sincerely with his flashy eyes and with whatever Eve said, he would take control over the conservation and drive the topic back to Eve’s wings within three sentences.
Eve had to promise to give him another black robe to stop him from his onslaught of flattery about her wings.
“Are the spells you need to remember clear? I won’t see you out.” Eve said to me outside the transportive field, “Cohen, remember the words I said to you on the stairs.”
“I know you’re serious about it.” I nodded, “Well, farewell!”
Eve looked at me one more time and vanished.
“Let’s go!” I tapped Jack’s head, “She’s gone! Stop looking! Lend me that robe for a few days…”
“Just tell me when you’ll give it back…”
“Relax, I will when I get sick of it…”