‘Impressive’ that’s the first word Charles said when he saw the Pass.
It is also called the Pass of Mountain and Sea. This is because the Pass is located East of the Aeropean Mountain and the wall itself meets the Midgard Endless Sea.
Since the Bourbon Dynasty, the Pass has guarded Midgard from barbarian invasion.
It was partially built during the Hardstone dynasty before completed during the Bourbon Dynasty.
It is also the most heavily fortified pass in Midgard.
Charles approaches the Pass and was stopped before the large gate. The guards looked at the appearance of the two people and quickly surmised they are of the nobility class.
It only shocked them that a ten year old boy was also riding horses.
The other was a tall and imposing and based on their appearance, well fed, clean and their clothes, it is obvious they are of the nobility.
But The Pass still requires for the usual checks.
But they are not extremely wary. After all the Pass purpose it to keep the invaders from coming in, not to stop the people of Midgard from going out.
After all, Westhold is not the only kingdom in Midgard and while it is Westhold that guards the Pass, the control of the Pass and the expenses of the Pass are because of the contribution of all the Seven Kingdoms.
One of the guards emotionlessly ordered
‘State your business’
Lancel then responded smiling in joviality. It has been a long time since he set foot in the Pass so he was in a good mood.
‘This lord wanted to travel to the Western Plains to pay respect to our esteemed teacher.’ Then Lancel gestured to his scabbard and then one of the guards brightened.
He recognized the scabbard and the metal. Fyresoil
‘Is your distinguished self, the famous Red Sword Lancel?’
‘HAHAHA. Yes, that is me. It seems I am not totally unknown in this part of Westhold.’
‘How could your distinguished self say that? Black Dragon guards the Pass, the Vicious Tiger guards the Gorge, and the Red Sword guards Morova. My lord reputation spreads far and wide. Killing the foul barbarians that manages to come down the Mountain and protecting the common people with stalwart determination, the general has always admired my lord and always regretted the fact that if not for his duty to guard the Pass, he would like to trade pointers with my lord in swordsmanship.’
‘I don’t deserve such praise.’ Lancel said humbly but he smiles from the man courteous attitude.
‘And who is this child?’ The guard asked.
‘This is the Third Young master of the Princely House of Martel and my nephew’
‘Ah, the Prince of Lindbergh son! Anyway, since my lord is busy I will no longer delay my lord. Welcome to the Dragon Pass. If my lord desires a guide, this lowly one will assign a few guides to escort my lord.’
‘That is not necessary. It has been a long time since I visit the Pass. Is the Everlasting Happiness Inn still exists?’
‘Yes, my lord and it even has been just newly renovated.’ The guard replies enthusiastically.
It is not common to meet the heroes of Westhold, since they guard this part of the kingdom, the border between Midgard and Aeropa.
‘Thank you’ as Lancel gives the man a few gold.
‘This…’ the guard hesitantly looks at the Count but Lancel smiles.
‘I know the life of a guard soldiers is hard. This is not a bribe. Just an appreciation. If your commanding officer gives trouble, then mention my name.’
‘Then…this lowly one accepts with gratitude.’ The man said as he tuck the gold inside his pockets
‘And, my lord, do not forget to get the Pass travel paper. If not when you want to return to Midgard without the travel paper, the soldiers will have to be more thorough with my lord.’
‘I understand.’ And then Charles and Lancel were allowed into the Pass.
Their house was left in the stable in front of the town stables with a fee. Lancel and Charles did not want to hire a carriage so they walk with Charles just following his Uncle.
Charles looks in awe and laugh in happiness.
It has been a week since he sees a proper town and he enjoyed the bustle even though it is a garrison town.
This is the Dragon Pass.
A garrison town with a square fortress, around 5 kilometers long in perimeter. The walls reach the height of 16 meters, and are 8 meters thick.
The pass’s east, south and north side is surrounded by a moat of 8 feet deep and 17 feet wide. There are drawbridges to get over the moat and in the middle of the pass stands a tall bell tower.
All four sides of the Pass have a gate. The Eastern Gate, the Western Gate, the Southern Gate, and the Northern Gate.
On the Eastern Gate hangs a huge board inscribed on it First Pass Under the Heaven. The four corners of the eaves are decorated with vivid sculptures of beasts.
It was then as Charles was looking around he noticed someone.
Charles could see a lone man sitting on the Eastern lone tower looking over the town, like the ruler of the Pass.
Even from afar and even without clear view of the face, Charles could feel that the man was imposing.
Then the sound of peddlers peddling their wares once again enters Charles ears and he look back in front as he keep following his uncle.
The Pass is not only a defending pass but also a vital transportation hub.
It is thus an important military station, and the thoroughfare of trade between Western Plains and the great Midgard.
Charles looks back at the town. The architectural style of this town is a fusion of Northmen and Eresian culture making it look unique and exotic. Houses with curved roof can be seen intermixing with houses of Midgard architecture.
Residences and workshops dotted along the quaint chessboard like street.
On the west of the Eastern gate, is the residence of the Great General.
The reason why Charles knew is because, his uncle from the moment he enters could not help but inform on him on certain things.
It seems that his uncle used to frequent the Pass during his youth.
As Charles walk following his Uncle from behind, Charles could also marvel on the temples that is constructed inside the Pass honoring the Golden Emperor.
While there is no shortage of the Temple of the Seven Gods, the faith of the Golden Emperor is also respected here in the Pass.
Charles admires the tolerance shown by the Pass Lord for people of other religion and races.
To be completely honest before Charles went to that other world he also views the Eresian as nothing more than a backward and primitive civilization easily defeated by the forces of Olaf.
It is only after he matures, he knows that history is written by the winner.
In truth, Charles doubts that the First Emperor of Midgard defeated the forces of Eresian easily.
If not how could there is starvation, unceasing rebellion and many other problems during his reign.
In Midgard there is no lack of Northmen that despise the Eresian people and culture.
And Charles could not fault them either. After all the Northmen are shaped by the history of their ancestors and the superiority of Northmen culture.
It is well known and a documented history that when Old Norveg falls and mana disappears from the world, the people of the Old Empire scatter through the world and found Midgard.
They set down their ships and settle in Midgard which was then ruled by the Eresian. The year they settle in Midgard was called the year of Afterfire, first day of the first month.
The Northmen faces discrimination all around them.
They were enslaved. The proud people of the great empire that once ruled the world now are enslaved by yellow people.
The Seven Gods beliefs were stamped out, the Eresian Kings forced the proud men to bow their heads to the Golden Emperor.
The woman was taken captive and raped whenever the men of Eresian people feel the need to release their pent up desires.
For nine years Northmen endured, gritting their teeth until the anger is at a boiling point.
On 10 Afterfire on the month of the moon began the Uprising of Northmen.
The rebellion spreads and one by one the cities of the Eresian were conquered.
Northmen are hardy and bloodthirsty when they enter battle. They spare no expense for their personal safety, hurling war axes and using broadsword.
Then they build their own city as the rebellion stretched on for ten years.
In one of the city then, there was a prince, young, ambitious and a very vocal voice on ridding out the Eresian from Midgard claiming that Old Norveg once ruled the world, and Midgard was once its vassal Empire.
This prince is Olaf Hardstone.
He was not handsome or beautiful. His face is rugged and his way of speaking is coarse and rough.
But he possesses this undeniable charisma when leading his men into battle.
By the time he reached the age of 16 there is not a part of his body without a scar or a bone not broken by sword, knife, stone, spears and shield.
He shared every hardship with his men and managed to expand his father city so wide that by the time his father died, Olaf Hardstone on the first year of his reign declares himself a King and vowed he will take Midgard for the suffering his Northmen have suffered for two decades.
But even though he declares this it never seems that Olaf will able to unify the land.
It was because after the constant war he also was tired.
Since he was ten he has embark on many wars against the Eresian so when he was King his fire has gone out and only wish to rule his kingdom in peace as there was a tacit understanding between Olaf kingdom and the Eresian Kings.
That was until his Grand Tutor Colbert Rousseau once lecture Olaf by saying
‘The inferior race of Eresian controls this vast land. They rule and we the proud descendant of Norveg sits around like frogs.’
Then he continues by saying.
‘You, Olaf possess a strong body and a bright mind. You could lead the Northmen and rule the world yet you sit on your throne and recounted glory days. Did you forget the humiliation and suffering of your people, O great Olaf?’
Olaf was woken from his idleness and the fire inside his heart burns again.
He saddles his horse, sharpen his sword, and summon his troops and his banner was up in the air once again.
And in 22 Afterfire, Olaf Rebellion began lasting for ten years and in 32 Afterfire, he founded the Hardstone dynasty.
This is the reason why Northmen fell both despise and superiority over the Eresian.
Despise because Eresian once enslaved their ancestors. Superiority because Northmen managed to rid out Eresian influence from Midgard
It wasn’t until the Bourbon dynasty that the Eresian once again allowed to come inside Midgard and the policy of trade of Bourbon dynasty with the Western Plains catapult Midgard into a truly powerful empire, militarily and economically.
Charles admires the Pass Lord because the Pass Lord is not hung up on past history and was tolerant to people of other races a quality that Charles learns to appreciate in the other world.
Racism is hard to banish and even in that world racism still exist. But, the effort to truly banish racism has to start somewhere.
If he was the Emperor of Midgard, he would not deny talented men, regardless of race, gender, age or religion.
Charles did not realize that just by thinking this, it was already treasonous crime.
Thinking of himself as the Son of Heaven, that means he desire a higher station than his father and even his King
If this is not treasonous then what is?
Charles moral standards and notion has greatly changed since his return, so much so, he did not think it is unusual to think in the seat of the Emperor.
Charles does not believe in the Mandate of Heaven or some destined emperor. He believed that the will of the people will strive to create a better world.
And the changing of dynasty is guided by the will of the people to see a better tomorrow.
That is what he believes. Tyrants do not last long. Sagacious emperor, wise and generous will gain the approval of the people.
To Charles, the approval of the people is the approval of the Heavens. He look at the people in this town and he smiled.
‘They are showing smiles’ Charles mused as he looked at the people.
The population of this town must be around 20 thousand people looking at the bustle and the estimated residence in this place, and each one of them seems energetic and full of hope for tomorrow.
‘It is a nice city’ Charles said in a whisper.
‘Nephew, we have arrived’ and Charles finally looked in front of him.
It was a four storied tower with a plaque banner on the first floor veranda which is inscribed the name of the place
‘Is this the inn you have been talking about Uncle?’ Lancel nodded as he looks on the inn with a hint of nostalgia.
‘Let us come inside. I have an old friend here.’
The Inn was clearly worth the name of Everlasting Happiness Charles thought to himself when he steps foot inside.
With a thousand entertainments how could the people frequenting this Inn not be happy? Even as he followed his Uncle he could see the entertainment offered here.
There was the theatre performance, music and acrobatic displays.
There is also even shadow puppet with both the western style and the eastern style.
The two styles were differentiated by the method of making the puppets and the positioning of the rods on the puppets, as opposed to the type of play performed by the puppet.
Both styles generally performed plays depicting great adventure and fantasy and rarely used for political propaganda.
The western shadow puppets were larger of the two. It is built using thick leather which created more substantial shadow.
Symbolic color was also prevalent; a black face represented honesty, a red one bravery.
The rods used to control the western puppets were attached perpendicular to the puppets heads, thus they were not seen by the audience when the shadow was created.
The southern puppet is more delicate and smaller.
Created out of thin translucent leather usually taken from the belly of a donkey, painted with vibrant paints thus they cast a very colorful shadow.
The thin rods which controlled their movements were attached to a leather collar at the neck of the puppet.
While these rods were visible, they lay outside the shadow of the puppet, thus they did not interfere with the appearance of the figure.
As they climb the stairs, Charles looks at the dance performance on the first floor.
Most of the dances were energetic dances which are often based on martial arts. But that was only on the first floor.
As they reached the second floor, Charles could see the female performer performed the soft dances accompanied with music.
They were like heavenly musician and dancer.
Lancel look at his nephew and smiles.
His nephew keep looking left and right, clearly curios but not awestruck, maintaining his nobility demeanor and not bringing shame to the family name.
While this is an Inn, they also provide prostitute and Lancel was afraid that a young man such his nephew could not control his lust looking at the woman dressed in provocative dancer attire but his Nephew clearly either he poses the naivety of a child or the willpower of the Saints.
What Lancel didn’t know, this is not like the first time Lancel has seen a woman and it was also not his first time being seduced.
He has lived three decades in that other world, of course he has tasted the forbidden fruit countless of time.
It was just that he was curios of the entertainment in this era. After all when he was on the Prince Manor, he never was allowed out.
And even if he were to be allowed to go out, he was escorted by the Prince Guard and only go out for official business.
He never went to places like this.
After all even though he has lived three decades in that other world, in this world he just only lived ten years and many of the things in this world he has not seen yet.
As they passed the second floor they climbed another set of stairs before reaching the third floor and his Uncle went into the corner of the third floor with Charles following him from behind
Then he stops in front of a room. The room is guarded by guards and the guard was about to stop Lancel when he saw Lancel face and smiles.
‘Second Master!’ The guard said. Lancel was also smiling and then he ask
‘Is my Third Brother is here?’
‘Third master is resting after a day work. But he would clearly get up and greet Second master.’
‘Announce my presence.’ Lancel said
‘Yes, Second Master.’ The guards then slowly open the door and enter the room to inform his third master.
Charles was puzzled.
‘Uncle?’ Charles asks as his face shows a puzzled expression. Lancel also realize this so he smiles towards Charles and explained.
‘The owner of Everlasting Happiness is my Junior brother from the same teacher, Meng Zhang the Scholar of the Sword.’
Charles understands and he nodded his head. Then a few moments later, the guards come out of the room smiling
Third master is happy to hear Second master is coming and is changing his clothes. He ask Second master to enter first.
Lancel and Charles enter while the guards closes the door behind them and resume his duties.
The tea was prepared for them and both Charles and Lancel taste the tea and praise the quality of the tea.
Clearly the business of Everlasting Happiness is booming if they can afford an exquisite tea like this.
‘Second Senior Brother presence brings light to my humble dwelling’ a voice suddenly sounded out.
Lancel laughed and rise up from his seat. Charles also rise from his seat and bowed a bit.
‘HAHAHAHA. Why are you so formal, Junior Meng? Nephew greet my Junior brother’
‘Charles greets Senior Meng.’
Charles knows a little bit about the culture of the Eresian so ha said this. Meng Zhang was satisfied
‘Please sit’ as Meng Zhang gestured them to sit back.
‘So what is the occasion for adventuring to the Pass, Second Senior Brother?’
‘I wish to see our Honorable Teacher. But it has been years and I do not know if Honorable Teacher is still at his old dwelling.’
‘Our Teacher has been in the Five Finger Mountains these past few years after the battle in the Cloud Mountain with the evil sect.’
‘Master Ao Xiyun sneak attacked our teacher and throw his lot with the evil sect and managed to inflict severe injury to our teacher. Daoist Zhuang Yu of the Five Finger Mountains has been treating our teacher injuries for this couple of years.’ Lancel face darkens and clearly he was disturbed by this revelation.
Meng Zhang chuckles and then said
‘Our Teacher is fine, do not worry too much Second Senior Brother. If our Teacher knows that you are coming to see him, he would clearly feel overjoyed. Out of his disciple you are the most famous one.
Meng Zhang said alleviating Lancel worries.
‘You overpraise me, Junior Meng.’
Then they talk about other matters mostly concerning Jianghu and the current situations between Aeropa and Midgard. Charles on the other hand is thinking about other thing.
Since they both disciple under the same teacher Charles knows they have a lot to talk about giving Charles a time to reorganize his thoughts.
Charles has learned many things during these past few days.
His conversation with Lancel has cleared many of his doubts and the situation in the Seven Kingdom.
He is farther away from the Seven Kingdom now but he vowed he will return one day and bring glory to his mother.
He only hopes that before he make a name for himself his mother could endure the plots inside the household.
As Lancel is talking and Charles is thinking in the end it has almost reached the evening.
‘It has been long since we have met each other, that we didn’t even realize the time passing’ Meng Zhang said and he got up from his seat.
Lancel also got up and shakes each other hand.
‘Nephew, get up’ Lancel inform his nephew.
Charles was startled and also got up. He didn’t hear too many things since he was thinking about other matters.
‘I have prepared an accommodation near the Gate for you Second Senior Brother. When dawn comes you can set out to the Merciana and reach the Western Land.’
Lancel nodded and then he looks at his nephew.
‘Must have been hard on you listening to us old man talks.’
Charles shook his head and struggle to climb down from his seat.
His face was still round and his cheek was red, making him unbearably cute and innocent. Add that his face is feminine one could even mistake him for a girl.
Even though when he spoke he seem dignified, Charles is still a ten year old boy. He of course does not possess charisma like an all-conquering general or dignified air like wise scholars.
Even the chair prepared for him was shorter than the rest so that he could climb the chair and sit down.
‘You have a cute nephew Second Senior Brother’ and they laugh.
‘I hope Teacher could help you concerning the matter of your nephew problem’ Meng Zhang added and Lancel nodded
They then come out from the room and after being given a medallion by Meng Zhang and trades some words, Charles once again follow his Uncle back.
They were climbing on the stairs and Charles was thinking about the sect in Aeropa and its relationship with each other.
It might not seem like Charles was paying attention but he was and he is now shuffling through the information inside his mind to gain a clear picture of the situation inside Jianghu.
He heard something about a Red Snow Palace and Lu Dongpo. He also heard about Golden Snake sect that got into trouble with the General and was being evicted out from the Pass.
‘Nephew, watch out!’ suddenly his Uncle loud voice entered his ear and he was startled. Then the sound of a crash happened and the sound of a girl crying.