Chapter 35: Captain of a Sinking Ship
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The sounds of crickets could be heard serenading the world. Now, the typical gloom of the night was overpowered by something overwhelming. This great chasm within the natural order was caused by just one thing.- The overwhelming spirit of the people. Tonight was a special night, different from any other.

The streets were lined with intersecting strings from alleyway to alley way. It looked about as intricate as a spider’s web. Dotting all of the segments between, were rivilin lanterns. They mimicked the stars. It seemed as if the city was a perfect replica of the stars. 

The amount of lights that subjugated the night, made it seem as if it was daytime. Yet, it was still possible for one to see the stars, presenting themselves possible only for this great city. Almost as if they were challenging the skies in number, a great amount of people flooded the city. This made it extremely hard to move. Everyone simply inched themselves to their destination in tiny awkward jiggles. 

It was within this sea of flesh, that Lusha found herself. She had not in the slightest that this would turn out like this. The presence of everyone else was very scattered just prior. After maybe just 1 hour into the festival, she was suddenly incapable of moving. If it was possible to die from this, it would become her most unique death yet. 

To her side, was a young girl. She had to be very certain that she would not be encompassed by the crowd. For sure, if there was one who would die from something like that, it would be someone of her size. Next to the young girl was a behemoth almost 5 times her size. He by far took up the most space in the festival. 

The man was adorned with a giant helmet over his head, giving him an appearance similar to Nuon… if he had been born in the slums. The clanky, rusty bits of armor that he dawned on gave him the appearance of an amateur- one who had not yet made a name for himself to be able to afford better. 

On the other hand, his appearance was one that caused everyone to be uneasy. Grodd was probably the only one who could maneuver through this crowd. Because as soon as he starts moving, a royal parting occurs. Noone wanted to be in his war or get on his nerv. 

Nuon seemed to notice Lusha’s concerns and picked up the young girl, placing her on his shoulders. Rinn was just completely in awe. This was the first time that the night had ever looked so beautiful to her. Even if it was fake stars, it was the first time that the world had shown her this side of itself.

Even if it was all artificial. All she needed to do was look at the skies and ignore the negativity around her. It didn’t even bring down her mood one minute. If she could outstretch her hands and catch only a little bit of these stars in her palm, perhaps she could see this view everywhere she went. 

The various different colors of the rivilin stones made her hand glow a different colors as she placed them up to the sky. “Rinn-”

 

She looked over at the young witch. “Are you already enjoying things?”

 

She nodded and smiled. A genuine smile. “Yes… I-”

At that moment, a young man walked up to the town hall. Lusha was quite familiar with the man. It was the young lord Regalia that they had met with the young boy. Of course, he would be a prominent figure during this festival. 

“Hey- isn’t that?” 

Lusha nodded. “Mhm. That young man from some days ago.”

The murmuring of the crowd fell silent as he presented himself before everyone. The city’s lights were strongest over the stage, illuminating Regalia above all. His voice bolted and encompassed everyone within the city confines.

“WELCOME ALL FOUR OUR 9TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FESTIVAL OF SHOOTING STARS!!” 

The crowd cheered with enthusiasm with enough volume to literally rumble the earth before them. Lusha began to wonder if even the other towns could hear them. 

“MY FELLOW SIBLINGS, ON THIS DAY, MARKS THE MEMORIES OF ALL THE SOULS THAT ASCENDED INTO SANCTUM.”

“TODAY WE COMMEMORATE THE 450,000 WHO PERISHED FOR THE GLORY OF THIS GREAT NATION. FOR THE GLORY OF ALL OF YOU. FOR THE GLORY OF OUR FAMILY. EVEN AS THEY FOUGHT THEIR OWN BROTHERS AND SISTERS.”

His voice grew quiet… he must have been utilizing magic to amplify it. Yet, even in its silence, the voice was still heard clearly in the ears of everyone around. 

“It was thanks to these sacrifices, we’re all able to sit here today. The loss of brothers and sisters. With every drink we drink, with every food we eat, with every breath we breathe…. Our heroes are there beside us. TO THIS DAY! Though their bodies are no more, their spirits are among us.”

“So… what can we give back to those who have sacrificed everything?” 

“We must offer up our spirits. The spirit that stays strong within us, must be given up to them. We must show them what they have saved and show them that we are still a country worthy of admiration thanks to their sacrifices.”

The lights now focused solely on him. It seemed that they were turning the diamond shaped rivilin stones in a very certain way that focused the spectrum on him. It was almost as if it was a theatre.

“Though I understand that this country… is lacking in spirit this year. Yes… it’s true, this year we are facing unprecedented hardships. Yes, we managed to even survive the threat of the horrendous demon general, but yet our state of affairs and our country suffers.”

There was a pause. Everyone could feel change in emotion over them as he spoke these words. They were not here to ponder upon the impending doom of their country. In fact, this was probably the largest turnout for the ceremony since its 9 years. Everyone wanted something to ease their minds off of the dire situation they were in prior. Thus, even those who have never showed up before, now made an appearance.

Earl Regalia smiled radiantly to all the sullen people before him. “Yes… I cannot ignore this anymore that the fate of our country is in grave danger. As much as I’d like to…. Even here…. In this great festival… my spirit is waning. As are all of yours.”

This man captivated Lusha’s interest greatly. “Why would you say something like that…. What purpose do you serve by stating these things during a festival like this? Do you wish to crush the spirits of your citizens?”

“My spirit is waning….”

The displeasure in the crowd grew more and more by the second. This was the great Earl Regalia, the most loved lord of all the kingdom. When a man such as him becomes demoralized, many more fall under his influence. 

“That is precisely why I can stand before you all so boldly, so powerfully, so strongly….”

“Because the spirits of my heroes see it fit to rise me up. I’m standing before you all right now, not by the powers of my own doing, but by the powers of the country’s spirit… by the powers of those who sacrificed flesh, to protect this country in spirit.”

That’s a lot more like it. But however, much of the damage was already done by his speech. This statement alone could not have possibly elated the populace.

“And…. when the king suffered for 6 days… when he saw his family killed and slaughtered and tortured in front of him by the most vile beast.. He didn’t give up. He stood just like I am right now, with the help of the country.”

The crowd was silent before this speech…. But now it seemed as if everyone was… even more silent. “Even more silent than silence itself….. Could such a statement even exist? No doubt only Aias would know the answer to that question” 

Lusha clicked her tongue at the thought even remembering Aias. She quickly diverted her attention back to the man before him. Her eyes flickered to Grodd and the girl that was on his shoulders. They were completely enamored by his speech. “Perhaps… I should take speaking classes… it seems the use of speech has become very influential in this era.”

During her years, speech could never be used effectively. Well, she did grow up in an era of action after all. If a  priest were to tell her  that one day the art of speechcraft was to be something that can influence the flow of the world, she would have scoffed and called the man a fool.

“He trusted everything… in the heroes that this country had given rise to… and will give rise to. He trusted everything in the last hero we’ve known, who fought valiantly against the demonoid.”

“He trusted everything…. On The Great General, Duke Eris.”

“Eris… survived on and on for as long as he can. He fought for the country, because none other than Duke Eris knows the sacrifice and the amount of sacrifice those men put into the future of this country.”

“Alas… he’s no longer with us.”

It was strange… These very same words could make the bright atmosphere and lights be viewed from a monochrome lens. Mere words could make one perceive light as dark. Sometimes, magic clearly was not necessary.

“But… the great general left us all with something before he departed. He left us with exactly what the king entrusted him with. Yes, that’s right…. Years before his death, the king had already thought of a plan for if something had ever happened like this.”

“Guided by the possibility of this outcome many years ago, he stowed a child away from the world.” 

Lusha smirked. “This man…. Talented I’ll give him that.”  

The sound of eyelids blinking and opening do not make a sound. But multiple even a tiny sound such as ants moving, by multitudes, and one could probably begin to hear the collective noise of tiny feet marching about. In this case, one could probably hear the sound of everyone's eyes opening.

“Yes… Standing behind me now, is the product of all of their hard work. This country will never die or perish. For this child carries the blood, the tenacity….”

He moved to the side, revealing the young child in front of everyone. His long purple garments were traced with the color black. Furry noble cuffs composed of black fur, and one huge, regal collar composed of fur embraced his neck. The cape behind his back was that of the previous king’s. It draped onto the floor, for he was too short. But behind him was a carpet thoroughly cleaned and untouched.

“And most importantly…. The spirit of the former king.”

The fruits of his labor became apparent right then and there. The breaths that everyone was holding as his words slowly took an upturn of redemption, finally erupted. An irrepressible amount of cheers filled the entire city…  no, the entire country.

“LONG LIVE THE KING! LONG LIVE THE KING! LONG LIVE THE KING!”

The shouts were unquenchable. From screams to whistles, to tears.

Regalia took a moment to breath in the essence. His delivery was perfect. The excitement in this crowd couldn’t possibly die in a day… no, probably not even several months. The word will continue to spread, and even those who have never ventured past their abode will hear of this. After-all, this country needed new hope.

The chants did not seem to be dying down at all. He had expected it to soon, but, of course that was short cited. He had not expected the people to be so sullen by the affairs of their nation like this. Upon the big crowd, he could see families crying, hugging each other, dancing, and many of them shouting with glee.

It almost could have brought a tear to his eye. For too long, he had assumed just him and the other four were the only ones that were aware of the frail state of their nation. He had believed them to be the only ones truly thinking and pondering its future. He could easily end this speech here, but Alas…. His speech was not done yet.

With a voice that overpowered even that of the crowd, thanks to his magic, everyone heard. “I’d like to introduce to you our new king! His Majesty, KING AZER!!!”

“KING AZER!!!!”

“ALL HAIL KING AZZEERRR!!!!”

“LONG MAY HE REIGN!!!”

“OUR HOPES AND SPIRITS UP TO THE KING!!”

An indiscriminate mount of shouts continued the entire night.

“And now… with this speech… WE GIVE THANKS TO OUR HEROES!!”

Everyone cheered yet again. Lusha was overwhelmed by this display. It wasn’t like war. You see, after the strongest shouts and cheers, this would usually tire soldiers and warriors out. The way this was going it seemed as if the people had unlimited energy.

That’s when she became first amazed. “.... what is this…”

 

Several projectiles flew into the sky, and from their height in the clouds, they exploded. Colors of all kinds pour from them, dotting the skies with their beauty. She was so captivated, that the cheers, which turned louder, simply faded out of existence.

“It’s… not magic… there’s no signature... . yet…- it’s beautiful.”

Every so often has she been completely enamored by the advancements of the new world. In fact, at that moment… there was a thought that resonated deep within her. “This world…. Is beautiful.”

Multiple torrents of projectiles flew into the sky, shaping the world in all different colors. She merely remained stuck observing them, disassociating with the world around her. Every now and then, they would change the projectiles to different colors. The skies would be dotted with words, with poems, with literature and culture, and even imagery. 

All of it was made by very calculated science and technology. Not a single trace of magic guiding them. For the first time in many centuries, the smile on her face was truly genuine. Perhaps she’d even cry if she had it in her anymore.

She broke away from her illusion and looked over to her allies. Grodd was completely captivated by the view. For sure, he had never seen anything like this. There’s a doubt any goblin has even remotely seen anything like this.

Her eyes trailed to Rinn, who was enjoying the ambience whole heartedly. As she smiled, it was the first time one could say she was genuinely happy. Rinn… at this moment, encountered the true meaning of the world’s beauty for the first time.

Her teary eyes met Lusha’s and she smiled, looking back at the thousands of lights they launched into the sky. 

This festival and its show went on for hours. They were to launch around 450,000 fire works. Each one for every soldier that had died within the civil war. At some point Lusha had lost interest in remaining watching the show, but for sure, Rinn and Grodd were completely enamored. They stood in the same spot like idiots, just staring at the skies while everyone around them moved and conversed.

Lusha yawned. There were many stores out displaying their wares and food. “Maybe I should surprise them with a bit of food as well.” 

Something particularly caught her eye. It appeared during this era, food had advanced greatly. They even managed to capture clouds in place. She pondered on how that was even possible and walked over to the stand selling it.

“Hey there, child, what kind of cotton candy will you be getting today?”

Lusha resisted, yet again, the urge to slap the man for treating him like a child. Though, to be fair, she had to wait by quite the line of children before it was her turn. She clicked her tongue. “

“Give me three of whatever that thing is.”

“Eh?? Is there a flavor you’d prefer?”

“Any flavor would do. I’ve never seen them before… so I don’t actually know how they taste.”

“Y-you’re not from around here kid are you?”

Lusha glared daggers at the man. “What does that matter. I want my clouds.”

“Of course right away, kid.” The man turned around and grabbed several of the clouds on a stick. “Youth these days.” He sighed.

“That’ll be 9.15”

“Um… how do I pay with one of these?” she handed the man her adventurers tag. This took him aback by quite a bit. A child with an adventurers tag…. A steel one nonetheless.

“I-...I’ll just take that here real quick.” He took the tag, dipped it in some sort of ink and stamped a sheet of paper with her signature tag on it.

“Ahhh… I get it. So it's like a check system. They must bill these forms to the adventurers guild periodically to collect the amount owed.”

“Thank you, sir.” She took a bite of the weird candy and instantly stopped a couple steps after she turned away. “W-...what is this?” 

IT'S SO GOOD!!!!”  The excitement one must get when discovering a new color, had nothing on this. This was a taste that she never thought possible. The flavor, the taste, the texture, the way it melts from solid to liquid in your mouth. She was absolutely enamored.

She quickly made her way back to Grodd and Rinn, who were still completely entranced by the clouds. They ignored everything she was saying. She had to practically shove the candy in front of Grodd's face to have him react.

“Hmm? Why do you carry the sky?”

“Just try it… trust me.”

The maddening look in her eye was unsettling, but Grodd eventually took it and bit onto it. Only to quickly begin devouring the whole thing. “This… where did you humans learn this?”

He was about to snatch the other one in Lusha’s hand before she quickly evaded the maneuver. “Nehhh, this one’s for Rinn.”

She nudged Rinn’s shoulders. “Heyy, Rinn… try this.” 

“Hmm? Rinn?”

“Hey, Rinn.”

Rinn finally turned to look down on her. “....Y-yeah?”

Tears filled her face, as streams rolled down her cheeks. The eyes she had were that of her old self. Not that of one that was shocked by the beauties of the world. Even that was apparent in Lusha’s face.

“.... why…. Are you- crying?”

She sniffled and tried to wipe her eyes, only for new, fresh tears to continue obscuring her vision. “I-..”

“What is it… spit it out Rinn?”

“Just… its just that… that child… he’s very scared.”

She pointed at the newly anointed king. The child was drowned in cheers and praise…. Yet, he had not moved from the spot where he was originally introduced. In fact, he had not moved at all. One could easily have mistaken him for a statue.

The eyes were that of someone that had seen shock and stress for years. She would definitely know, she had performed certain acts on people for quite a while. Why would someone be so horrified?

It was unsettling, yes. “Perhaps… he’s just nervous about becoming the king?” Lusha still held the cloud candy in front of her face.

“N-no… it’s a terror I’ve never seen before…. I’ve been scared this whole time… from what he’s scared of.”

She knew her perception ability into emotions was a great mountain stretch away from normal people, but she wasn’t sure exactly what the child meant. 

“What do you mean?”

“He’s scared…. His eyes tell me….-” Her voice caught in her throat.

“E..veryone.. Is going to…. D-die.”

 

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