Samael had completed his laps. Despite being exhausted, he still had to trek up the castle where the administrative office was actually located.
The castle was located on the top of the hill where you could view the whole Rublor city district easily. The castle lit up orange with the eventide sunrays. It was a wonderful scene but Samael was too tired to enjoy such scene.
He walked heavily on the grassy hills as he tried to catch his breath. The long trek on the stairs was really a big snag which was the only way that connected the castle and the ground. He somehow managed to keep him on his toes and reached the castle.
The castle guard opened up the main gates to let Samael enter. The commander had already had issued orders to let Samael in.
Samael did a quick groom up, his messy attire to avoid Cecelia’s rebuke once again. Then started to enter the castle but suddenly the castle guards interrupt him.
“The commander is waiting for you in the administrative office.”
“Oh, thanks for the information!”, thanked Samael and rushed inside.
The majestic castle sure was old and enormous. It smelled like tin because of the metal soldier artifacts placed on the wall along with the painting of famous personages. The castle interior was also heavily guarded by soldiers and no fool would directly attack such castle. This castle was pretty old but it’s almost impenetrable because of its location on the cliff which gives it the edge.
Samael crossed the hallway and climbed up wooden stairs to the office. The wooden stairs made a creaky sound with every counting step. Then he reached the floor as told and went straight to the office. He then knocked on the door twice which was guarded by two soldiers who stood in attentive position.
“Come in”, a voice approved the knock.
Samael entered and the office which was pretty crowded. There were total five people including Reeves and Cecelia. The room was pretty old and it smelled like timber because of the newly polished wooden furniture as well as the deteriorating old maps on the walls and the shelves of books that covered most of the room. There were a big desk and few chairs. It also had a full body metal armor as a decorative monument that stood in the corner.
The commander, Cecelia was seated in her desk seat, while Reeves stood behind her.
There were two men who were heavily built and a young woman that stood in front of the desk. All the three belonged to the imperial Knights army, judging by their military uniform. The two men were ranked as captain, according to the insignia badge on their shoulder.
The young lady who had familiar face whom Samael didn’t believe to recognize, at first.
After identifying the lady, a big smile appeared on Samael’s face.
“Big sis, Sasha!”, exclaimed Samael as he happily pounced and embraced her.
“Long time no see, Samael”, replied Sasha as she hugged back and patted Samael’s head, playfully.
It was an unexpected and a long reunion, they were both happy to see each other.
All other people watched the reunion quietly.
After all the hugs were done,
“So how’s Lilith and Abigor? Still the arrogant and lazy runt as before?”, asked Sasha as she smiled with a grim and patted Samael’s head simultaneously.
“Oh yeah! Same as ever! How long has it been seeing you? 2 years?”, questioned Samael, curiously.
“Well, I was super busy with my assignments and had just returned to Rublor a few hours ago. I was summoned right, instantly as I entered the city! Such a pain!”, replied Sasha.
“For your information, I am still here!”, interrupted Cecelia.
But both, Samael and Sasha ignored her and continued as no one existed in this room.
The other two captains watched amusingly their nonchalant conversation.
Samael face suddenly turned gloomy,
“Are you going back to another mission?”, asked Samael pessimistically as he lowered his head.
“Well, yeah that’s why I was summoned here! Cheer up, don’t get worked up. We shall have a big time together, next time. You, me, Abigor, Lilith and also Mom!”, said cheerily, Sasha.
“Hey, I would rather rot away on my office desk than accompany you kids, as you all throw tantrum. Give me a break!”, ranted Cecelia who overheard their conversation.
“Why not mom? You should really have some family time!” asked Sasha and turned to the imperial Knight captains who stood watching, “What about you guys? Don’t you agree? Doesn’t the commander need to take a break and enjoy with her family.”
“Eh? Of… Of course, she should.”, stammered the captain, “Shouldn’t she?” as he asked the other captain.
“Yeah! You’re absolutely right!”, replied the second captain, nervously.
“Quit agreeing with their nonsense!”, said Cecelia who was annoyed. Reeves watched the scene from behind and giggled happily. It was a rare and happy sight for the Heller family reunion.
“So why are you, here? Did she summon you too?”, asked Sasha.
Samael left a sigh, which answered away Sasha’s doubts.
“Reeves handout! Samael’s equipment.”, ordered Cecelia, then she turned to the two captains,
“Captain Arnold and Captain Lynn, I got an urgent assignment. I know you guys have just returned from your mission but I got no one else, at the moment. You gotta team up.”
Reeves started to search Samael’s gear in the crowded and cramped room. Samael stood beside Sasha as she listened to the commander.
“No worries, chief! My team still has a lot of energy! Is it necessary for two squads to be assigned on a single mission?”, asked Captain Lynn.
“Well, my team has been currently attending the bathhouse! I could assemble right at once after they are done.”,added Captain Arnold.
“Your assignment would be to accompany the weapon expert who shall test out his new prototypes along with two new recruits who needs a field experience. I know this sounds bothersome but I would like you to complete all this, in one swoop. Here is the report about the main objective and its briefing.”, said Cecelia as she hands out the report file to Captain Arnold.
“You should study it thoroughly, as for the assembly, you could take some time and meet up here at 10 pm after having a dinner to your heart’s content! You got a big day ahead. Oh, by the way, my daughter Sasha would join you people as well.”, adds Cecelia.
Samael was handed out his packed up gear in the bag and was ready to go home, but he didn’t want to leave Sasha’s side.
“Miss Sasha, would you like to join us for the dinner? I would like you to meet up with my crew and get to know each other!” asked Captain Lynn and then he turned towards Captain Arnold, “Bring your team too! Let’s celebrate, tonight.”
“Sure”, said both Arnold and Sasha in harmony.
She then turned to Samael,
“Now I have to go! I promise that we would have a family time, the next time we meet, altogether.” and hugged Samael before she leaves.
Samael hugged back with a teary eye.
“Now man up! ‘Real men don’t cry’. It’s not like I am going forever! Keep your chin up and show me your pleasant smile.”, cheered Sasha who patted Samael’s head.
Samael smiled with a grin and wiped off his teary eyes.
“That’s my boy! Now you look better!”, cheered Sasha.
Samael than rushed to the door and halts,
“Goodbye, sis! Goodbye, Aunt Heller and Miss Reeves!” and waved at them cheerfully, one last time.
“Hey! No running in the hallways! SAMAEL!”, scowled Cecelia.
Samael didn’t hear her word and already left.
Reeves and Cecelia had a smile for an unknown reason as she glanced on Cecelia who looked like a worried parent, for once.
The sun had already set down and it was already dark.
Samael trekked down the hill and ran to the pub restaurant in haste.
The Windy Rose Tavern is an old rundown pub for all people and also the soldier's hangout spot.
From the outside, it looks pleasant, intimate and rustic. Hard wooden planks and hard wooden beams make up most of the building's outer structure.
It's impossible to see through the windows, but the energy and excitement from within can be felt outside.
As you enter the tavern through the heavily used, wooden door, you're welcomed by joyful music and the smile of a waitress.
The bartender is working up a sweat but still manages to welcome you with a shortwave.
It's as alluring inside as it is on the outside. Tree logs support the upper floor and the decoration lights attached to them. The walls are covered in photographs of personal achievements, all related to the nearby mountain. Some of the people who reached the summit, others simply of happy people.
The tavern itself is packed. Travelers seem to be the primary clientele here, which could be seen as the best sign you can get. Several long tables are occupied by locals, travelers, soldiers and anybody else who wishes to join. The other, smaller tables are also occupied by people who-who seem to be strangers to each other, all sitting here because there are no other seats. Though they all clearly enjoy each other's company. Even most of the stools at the bar are occupied, though nobody seems to mind more company.
The Tavern door opens and the bell rings which alerts the shop owners about the incoming of a new customer. But now it wasn’t a customer, it was Samael!
The bartender suddenly peeked at the entrance to greet.
“Oh, you made it! Thought you would not show up, today! Welcome!”, greeted the bartender who’s also the owner of the shop.
He was wiping the wine glasses with a dry cloth and placed neatly on the counter as a shape like a pyramid.
The shop owner was a really nice old guy. He was bald and had a furry mustache which was his pride. A normal bartender usually wears a butler suit but he wore an apron on his casual clothes and no one dared to complain, as he was the owner himself. Although, people really like him and his drinks.
“Sorry Boss! I totally screwed up!”, replied Samael as he took down the gear bag from his back and stuffed it under the bar counter table. Well, it had really huge space that was used to store dozen carton boxes of champagne, easily. So a big bag was no biggy.
Samael disrobed his military jacket which was dusty and hooked him on the coat hanger stand. He picked up the apron and started to dress up.
“Well, you could take the day off! It was a very big day and your outfit and you yourself seemed very drained!”, recommended the boss, worriedly.
Samael continued to wear his apron and the kitchen headwear cap.
Then he looked at the worried owner and with a smug smile he pumped his fist in the air, with pride.
“No worries! I shall work hard and become the employee of the month, this time for sure!”
The other waitress and workers overheard his joyful cry.
Two maids approached the counter after they heard this cheer.
“Oh, my! So you think you could beat us?”, said one of the waitresses.
Tall beauty with an alluring purple hair and voluptuous bust. She looked like a young teenager but she is in her 30’s. But it would be for the best if you never bring up her age because you don't like to get to her bad side.
“Yeah getting all cheeky! You got a lot of nerve, coming late and then challenging the top position head on! You, the employee of the month? Stop joking!” mocked another cute blonde girl with pigtails. She’s tiny and cute, but her personality is not. If you mention about her height than you shall have to face her wrath. She’s the same age as Samael and also a fellow student in a normal school, unlike Samael.
Samael expression dropped suddenly and his determination was assaulted by the two waitresses taunts.
“Hey! You just wait. I shall be the next best employee than you all would just be speechless and ask for mercy. Just you wait!!!!!”, replied Samael sternly as he banged his one of his fist on the bar counter. The sudden smack resulted in wine glasses to tremble and the decoratively placed wine glasses in pyramid shape by the owner collapsed.
The glass splattered all around the floor and not a single glass lasted.
The owner became sad as just the only glass that saved was in his hand which was still in the process of cleaning and the final piece to complete the pyramid.
The two waitress burst into laughter.
“I am so sorry BOSS!” He got on his knees and begged for forgiveness.
“I am so sorry! You could cut my salary for the mess, I created! I am really, really sorry!”
The boss let out a gasp of depression, just because he could not complete his pyramid.
“No worries! Well just clean this mess up and start to wash the dishes, already. That’s all for today.”, replied the Boss.
“Right away sir!”, Samael dashed to the kitchen and grabbed out the broom and dustpan and started to clean up. He was pretty good at household works such as cooking and cleaning, although he never showed any interest. Cleanliness was something, he never knew that it existed when not reminded.
“Well, you are pretty good as housewife material! But just if you were not clumsy as you are now.”, taunted the blonde waitress as she chuckled with other waitresses.
“Yeah! I would have you accepted as my husband if you were ain't a ponderous guy! Ha!”, added, the purple headed girl.
Samael teary eyes swelled up even more as he tried to hide his embarrassed face while he broomed on his knees, carefully.
Suddenly another waitress appeared with a tray of empty soiled dishes.
“Girls stop bullying, him! And get back to work!”,said the waitress who had long black hair. Beautiful, alluring and looked quite mature but was also the same age as Samael.
“Here Samael, I shall clean the rest. You go ahead and start to wash the dishes.” said the girl with a gentle smile.
“Thanks, Maria! You are the best.”, thanked Samael and passed her the broom and the dustpan.
He then tucked away, the dishes from the tray and headed straight to the kitchen.
“Oh so now we are the bad guys! Can’t you just fire the clumsy, good for nothing brat?”, complained the blonde waitress as she pouted her tiny face in anger. She looked adorable even if she threw fits.
“Now don’t get, too worked up! Teasing him is fun! Just keep it bare minimum!”, replied the purple headed girl. She loved to tease Samael but was good at heart.
“Now you too, Sofia?”, argued short-tempered blondie.
Sofia just smiled and went away to attend the customer table.
“Don’t you turn away your back!”
“For your information!”, grumbled the owner with a serious look. He leaned forward on the counter table and stared right into her eyes.
“For the past 15 minutes, YOU are the one, good for nothing whose throwing tantrums like a little kid,”
“Eh! Sorry boss!”, then she got back to attend her customers.
The evening was very pleasantry and long. Like usual, lots of soldiers and students came to enjoy. Although, the customers changed regularly as many soldiers were assigned on missions, which would take weeks, month or even few years. Some would never return, who had given their lives in the line of duty. Although, the shop never stopped functioning and carried on its duty to entertain the soldiers and relieve them with their sorrows, with serving them with finely brewed ale.
The soldiers drank till their heart’s content and some even dozed on the table. The music from the banjo played by another part-time working boy entertained the soldiers who sang some most popular songs. The waitress dashed and sprinted across the table to the counter again and again as they served and picked the empty dishes and ale mugs. The bartender sorted the orders and made deliciously served beverages.
Although you could see the hardworking people in the tavern but, inside the kitchen which was the real deal.
The head chef tasted the dishes and added spices and perfected the dishes. The underlings would chop the ingredients into fine pieces and obeyed every order of the head chef. The kitchen looked a complete mess but the most messed up place was the basin sink where the empty dishes, ale mugs with leftover food piled up.
Samael was the one appointed to clear that huge mess by himself. He cleaned one by one thoroughly as he sorted out the leftovers in the garbage and soaped the dishes clean. He was soaked in sweat and soap and his apron has also been spoilt with the stains of food. But his hands keep moving and clean one by one without slowing down.
It was already 9 pm and Samael shift was over.
“Samael you gotta start moving! Good work today as usual.”, thanked the owner who entered the kitchen to inform Samael.
Samael turned back,
“Oh is it already time? Well, I guess I should get moving now.”, said Samael with a smile. Although he was pretty tired and didn’t let the tiredness get his best.
Maria entered the kitchen who was a substitute for Samael.
“Good work, Samael. You really did a number on the dishes as always.”, said Maria with a smile as she wore the apron and prepared herself.
“No biggie! Good work to you, too. I would be glad to wait and help out but I gotta leave before Lilith and Abigor fell asleep. Thanks a lot, Maria.”, thanked back Samael.
He then wore back his jacket and lugged away his equipment gear bag.
“Bye everyone”, as he waved back goodbye before leaving the tavern on the doorstep.
The owner, the musician, Sofia all waved back except the blondie.
“You better not return, back!”, replied the blonde girl as she stood in front of the counter returning the empty soiled dishes.
Samael ignored her and went on ahead.
“You won’t get a boyfriend with that attitude.”, said the owner as he mixed the spirits to make a cocktail.
“Huh!?... boyfriend?... Who wants that! I got much other stuff to deal with. Boys are really nothing but pain!.” she stammered with a flustered look. She placed the dishes and walked away from the boss in haste before he could ridicule her anymore.
Samael treads back to the dormitory room where the Abigor and Lilith were still waiting. He had his groceries picked along the way and the dinner for today is veggies and the stalemate rice from the government ration, once again.
He opened up the door through the spare keys. He already handed one to Aunt Savonije who had picked Abigor and Lilith from school. The door still made a creaky voice when opened, despite Samael tried to be careful.
Abigor was fast asleep and Lilith also woke up in an instant.
"Welcome home, brother. I was just tired of waiting.", greeted Lilith, as she acted all mature even tho she was just eight.
"Oh, I am very sorry! Just give 15 minutes and the dinner would be ready! Also wake Abigor after I am done, cooking! He would just create a ruckus and slow me down.", replied Samael as he hurried to the kitchen platform and placed the ingredients.
The one-room kitchen was very cramped at first but it was very tidier. Aunt Savonije had cleared up the room and it looked a little bigger than before.
Lilith started to check out her brother's heavy bag and started to unpack in curiosity, without getting the big brother's approval. Samael was pretty busy in his cooking but he was quite skillful in it. The smell of veggies started to smitten the room with a nice aroma, that would seduce your taste buds. Abigor drooled in his sleep and chewed the pillow as he mistaken it for food.
After the cooking was done, Lilith helped to dress the table and Samael served the food and woke Abigor who woke up instantaneously, unlike this morning. For food, Abigor could sacrifice his sleep, easily.
They all sat down the food, and joined their hands and thanked the food. Abigor was the first to chow down whereas his sister eats with fork and spoon like a noble.
Samael noticed that his bag was opened up and his stuff was ransacked and scattered all over the place.
"Lilith! Why did you open the bag, without my permission?", asked Samael who looked pale with exhaustion.
"Well, Curiosity got the best of me.", replied Lilith as she continued to eat and didn't even bat an eye.
"That's not an even a legible reason!", said Samael as he let out a gasp of irritation.
The first day was over for Samael that was filled with problems, but this was a tiny fragment and the real problem was yet to be faced.