The little children had proven themselves to be somewhat well behaved, since they had latched themselves onto Chris.
He had managed to thankfully change into some fresher clothes in private and was now dragging himself to the Ashikage dining room for a meal to fill up his empty stomach that seemed to be eating itself as it rumbled.
"Just relax, in time we will be fed " he caressed it as he would a living person in order to calm it down.
"Hey mister, why are petting your belly?" a little girl clutching onto a teddy bear asked him eyes wide in wonder.
Chris felt his cheeks heat up as he looked at all the children who were all focused him.
"What's your name kid?" He had to at least know of them by name if was going to be stuck playing baby daycare for Deus knows how long.
"Anna Hojo Anjin" she answered as she clutched on to her rabbit tighter.
"Just a little hungry that's all" he looked at the little children who were all paying special attention to what he said.
He stopped and then mischief grew within him and he said " after all, how else are you supposed to keep the stomach monster at bay".
" Stomach Monster's?!" the innocent little minds of the children must have believed the absolute garbage that he was peddling.
"Why yes, unless you regularly rub your tum tum, to appease the stomach monster, it will take over your mind and make you eat nothing but vegetables for the rest of you're life. It's an Avalonian thing so it's true".
The creepy voice, the creepy face and the wiggling that he was doing was as corny as one could get, but the children some how believed it because they began rubbing their bellies as they chanted.
" Stomach Monster go to sleep" over and over again.
Chris felt tears form in his eyes as he held his mouth shut, in order to keep the oxygen within from burst out as well the thundering laughter that was tickling his sides.
Christian Ddraig, Prince of Avalon was ultimately unsuccessful. Anyone who came across them would have found a young man nearing his twenties laughing at a bunch of puzzled children who were rubbing their bellies near religiously.
"Hey, what's so funny!?" little Shinji was the first amongst the children to begin to realize just what exactly was happening.
"I am so...so..ha ha ha ha!" Chris felt his legs give out and he was now on the floor as his laughter stopped his words from leaving his lips.
"Hey, stop laughing you big jerk!" Shinji shouted at him but it somehow made Chris laugh even louder.
Those were the only words that he could manage to get out as his ribs felt as if they were getting tighter and his shirt was soaked in the salty liquid known as his tears.
A look of embarrassment washed over the children as the realization of what Chris had done donned upon them.
" Stop laughing! ".
" You big meanie!".
"It isn't funny!".
"There isn't a stomach monster?!".
Chris wondered if he was possessed by some spirit of eternal laughter, because even as the children threw their toys at him in their anger and embarrassment, he howled in even more laughter.
The promise of a free breakfast that was treat was the only way to stop the world's cutest and most ineffective lynch mob from unsuccessfully attempting to murder him.
The Anjin dining hall was almost empty with just a few men and women who were late. The Ashikage table was completely empty as was the Imagawa table right next to it.
" Alright, you little guys take a seat while i go order...what is it you little things eat?".
"Cereal, Cereal, Cereal!" Was the universal answer amongst the children.
"Eighteen bowls of Cereal it is" he really couldn't tell them no and he wouldn't have minded a little bit of Cereal for himself.
The ordering table was manned by a single old woman who had a perpetual scowl that reminded him of Arumu sycamore more than he was comfortable with.
" Hello ma'am " he greeted her trying to pour some fresh air upon the dry awkward tension in the air that followed the scowling woman.
The woman's voice sounded strained and gravely, like she had been smoking since she was a child. Her voice and face told you that this woman was exhausted and utterly uninterested in her job or him for that matter.
Chris fumbled with his pocket for a few seconds. Within a few seconds he managed to pull out a wooden plack with the Ashikage symbols engraved upon it.
It was a exclusive meal ticket granted to the whole of team by the Ashikage heads to grant them any kind of meal wanted, whenever they wanted it and whatever amounts that they wanted.
The woman took the card and inspected it with her eyes lazily gazing over the words marked upon. She craned her head to the left, in order to look past him and at his guests who were seated upon the Ashikage table.
" Give us five minutes" she didn't exactly sound thrilled.
"Of course, thank you" he briefly bowed his head before returning to the table.
"How long until we eat?" one of the children asked or more likely demanded.
"I am hungry!" Another one added.
The last thing he needed was to be trapped upon this table and left to the complaining devices of the little children, until the cook felt like coming to save him.
"How about i tell you guys a story to pass the time" he quickly spoke up before the descent amongst the children spread.
They all stopped whatever complaints and whinnying that would have left their mouths. They looked amongst themselves trying to think of a story that he could tell them.
Their eyes beat around, until they all landed upon Shinji, the oldest child here and obviously the unofficial leader based on nothing more than age.
The said boy was in deep thought, with puffed cheeks and eyebrows pushed against each other as the boy's brain thought up anything.
"Tell us about how Avalon started" the kid jumped from his seat as if this was a great moment.
"Are you sure?, I mean, that's not something that's not really something i expect the rest of you kids to be into".
The children would not listen to his pleas and they began to slam their tiny fists across the table as they shouted over and over again.
" Story time, Story time!".
The sounds of their little pitched voices filled the dinning hall and brought many eyes upon the Ashikage table.
A myriad of irritated faces from those who had recently awoken from their slumber fell upon him with a stinging malice behind them. He could see the hidden message behind the twisted faces of anger.
They were calling on him to silence the little children, whose chanting had managed to fill every nook and every canny of the hall in a symphony that assaulted the ears.
Not willing to anger the other occupant's of the dinning hall, Chris raised his right arm in defeat.
"Fine, i will do it" and just like a off switch, the chanting instantly died down as the children focused intensely upon their new story teller.
His brain racked around for the knowledge about ancient Avalon. He thought about what he had learned from his book's and his grandparents in his youth.
"Um...where to start?" The knowledge was vast, complex and ancient, there was too much wool for him to simply create a condensed tapestry.
"Don't take too long" the whining from his audience returned him to his senses.
"Alright, just hold your horses. Long ago, my grandparents came from a peoples so ancient their true age is impossible to determine. These ancients as afar as i was told, went by the name of the Fomhóraighana, a race of powerful spell binders and charm speaker's who created great magical works that few mortal minds could ever hope to comprehend. These were a nomadic peoples who walked the very length of the multiverse itself. I am not sure about the events that led to my grandparents marriage or how they even reached old Avalon. But more than a thousand years ago nearing the end of the first age they arrived upon the stone steps of the mountain Gar-navel in the north" he stopped his explanation as one of the kids raised his arm.
" What was the first age Mr Prince?" The child asked innocently.
"Well that was the age before Avalon as we know it. It consists of both the dawn of the old kingdom's who composed this land and their twilight when the phantom kings hordes blighted this land. Many were destroyed by the phantom king or formed together under my grandparents to become the Avalon that know in what is called the second age" he answered.
" Why did they do that? " he supposed that as a child or even as a adult, the notion of giving up your crown made zero sense without context.
"I will explain that in time. Now the stone steps are not actual stone steps, but rather a fortress, the last fortress of the Picta kingdom that had since fallen to army of creatures of shadows. My grandparents managed to repel the armies of Night Terrors saving the stone steps refugees who would have fallen victim to shadow. This battle at the steps was the first confirmed victory that anyone in Avalon had ever had against the armies of the shadows and probably the first blow their master had felt in this land".
" How come, you guys are pretty strong" Shinji looked at him in an almost accusingly manner as if to accuse him of lies and miss truths.
It was to be expected, the notion that no one had achieved true victory against the creatures of darkness, while him and his knight brethren now could steamroll through a lot of them didn't make much sense to the young ones mind.
"How do i explain this..." He thought for a few moments before he tapped the center of his chest " We have these things called energy cores, they are made up of all sorts of energies from magical energy, light energy, dark energy, divine energy and other types of energies. These cores are what make us strong and long lived, but when the first king and queen arrived they only had prototypes of these cores within them, it would take them many hundreds of years to perfect the cores to what we have now and gift them to people ".
" So people were normal like we were?" The little girl with the doll asked him.
"Well, they had magic...but it wasn't very good back in the first age, but at least they had that going for them. Anyway, the people of the stepping stones declared them King and Queen upon Gar-navel. With their binding spells they fought tooth and nail against the shadows in the Twilight wars. There were many victories, each one inspired many kings and queens to come to them in order to surrender their authority in order for their people to be integrated into the then rising kingdom of Avalon".
" Cool, tell us more about these wars of twilight" a young boy asked Chris excitement burning in his eyes as he neared Chris.
Chris was about to answer the boy and entertain the children with tales of the wars of twilight and the many heroes who arose from it like sir Fionna the first dragon slayer or sir Cid the priest with the divine fists.
Chris chuckled as he remembered just how his grandfather's love of the heroes of earths myth had caused him to encourage the people of his kingdom to follow the naming trend.
"Though what is to be expected from a man who renamed himself Charlemagne " he thought to himself.
He decided to regale the children with the tale of the first battle of the Twilight war, the battle of blood water bay, he was stopped the voice of a woman angrily shouting the name "Tetsuya?!".
It took a few moments for the voice to register itself and for him to recognise it. He looked around and he spotted the hulking and formidable form of Atla, the warrior of the Tokugawa family stomping right his way.
" Hey, At..." The women ignored him. In fact, she didn't even look to him or seem to register his words, she simply stormed past him not until she was looking the child who had asked to learn about the Twilight war right in the face.
The two faced each other with a similar intensity, but with different facial expressions. Atla looked at the boy with a face Chris had long remembered from his mother when he or any of siblings had committed an error and she was going to set them straight with a bit of a tongue lashing.
The boy on the other hand looked at Atla with ultimate contempt. Chris had only seen such a face and the venom behind reserved for blood enemies.
" Tetsuya, me and your father have been worried sick about you. Why did you just run off like that?" Atla seemed to loose the steam that was built up within her.
"So what, your not my real mom, so don't pretend that you care" the boy might as well be dripping actual venom because his words were most certainly filled with it.
"I am your mother young man, so please show me some respect" Atla raised her voice only a little, but even when low her great frame did the intimidation work for her.
"YOU'RE NOT MY MOTHER!" the boy slammed his fist upon the Ashikage table and bolted from the table as fast as he could for the exit to the dinning hall.
The other children looked genuinely puzzled, but soon they too joined their friend as they ran out of the dinning hall, leaving Chris alone with Atla.
The strong Elf woman had never seemed so vulnerable to him before. She slumped her shoulders as if a great weight had been placed upon them and her face looked face was tired and slacken, making Atla look a centuries older than she most certainly was.
"Hey" he waved at her and this time she couldn't ignore his existence.
"Yes Prince boy" she sounded almost as dismissive as the cook at the food counter but Chris didn't care.
"One, my name is Christian Ddraig, not Prince boy. Two, what the absolute hell was that".
" Look it's non of your business Prince boy " she didn't even bother to look at him as she addressed him and that made something in Chris boil.
"Well you came to my table uninvited and started something, so yes Atla this is my business" he wasn't just going to let whatever that was slide.
"The kid was invited".
" And you weren't, so spill woman. What is with you and that boy?".
Atla sighed and the mental weights that seemed to be bringing down her spirits must have done the same for her mind as she slumped over the seats opposite of him.
He looked at her and wondered why this woman wasn't the head of a local garrison. She clearly had the strength and skills, also judging from the amount of Mana she produced for whatever Alpha-Spell she had been preparing when they fought Izanami, she was clearly very powerful.
The duty of garrison leader was one afforded to the top fifteen heads of the respect ranks. Just off his mind Chris could not believe that Atla had a leaser ranked Aeris knight than him.
"That's Tetsuya, my son or step son i guess. I married his father seven months ago and the kid has hated my guts ever since" at the and Atla rubbed her face " He thinks that i am trying to use being married into his family to leach off of them".
Chris winced a little as he tried to imagine what it would be like for a child to in their simple minds call you a gold digger.
"I am sorry".
" Don't be..." She waved off his apology "...perhaps its my fault for trying to push this hard right now. It's just that his father is really hoping that we could be a family and Tetsuya hates me with all the contempt in the world".
" I am sure its a phase, he is probably afraid that you are going to replace his mother. So just give it time and he will come around".
"How do you know that he will mellow out?" Atla might have spoken sceptically but Chris could sense a desire for to be right about this within her.
" My mother and i didn't have the best relationship out there. It's taken time for us to get close, comfortable with each other " he didn't need to explain more to Atla, the truth about the royal families problems weren't exactly unknown.
"Whatever you say kid" Atla said as she arose from her chair regaining the stature and confidence that Chris knew her for.
"Hey Atla" he called to her before she had the opportunity to leave.
"What is it kid?".
" This whole tournament, why are you doing it?".
The Elf woman looked at him with a confused expression worn upon her face " Because my family is involved in it already, what about you?".
"Same thing" was his answer.
"Well that's what's important isn't it" Atla did not stick around long as she walked out of the hall to most likely search for her wayward step son.
"What's taking the breakfast so long? " Chris thought to himself as he realized just how much time had passed since he had ordered a simple cereal.
He would have left the table to go and enquire with the woman but his echo began to vibrate indicating an incoming call. He pulled the crystal device out of his pocket and placed it across his right ear.
"Hello" he greeted whoever was on the other side of the call.
"Aeris Ddraig" the voice of Imparetor Astrapios greeted him from the other side with an amused chuckle.
"Sir, is anything wrong?" It didn't make any sense for the Imparetor to call him unless something serious was going to happen or happening.
"That is to be decided soon".
" I don't understand sir?" He hated people speaking in riddles.
"There is a nice rose garden outside of that fine dinning hall. Please meet me there, discretely" the Imparetor answered him before instantly cutting the call.
"No breakfast for me i guess" his stomach rumbled in response to his next actions.
The Anjin garden was a large structure, it was a great forest with many trees that towered over him and cast him in much shadow as they blocked the sun's rays.
The garden itself was in the center of the forest. It was a large canvas of thousands of bright coloured flowers that seemed to have a slight glow to them, as if they had lights within themselves.
"Beautiful aren't they" standing at the center was the Imparetor with his trademark mischievous grin " Fluter flowers, they are quite difficult to grow in large numbers. Whoever grew this batch has my respect ".
"Sir" Chris placed his right fist over his chest as he stood in salute of his superior officer.
"There is no need for that you two" the Imparetor said with an amused look upon his face.
"Us two?" Chris didn't understand what he meant.
"Aeris Ddraig, what are you doing here?" behind him emerged Theseus who looked puzzled at his presence here.
"I was going to ask you the same thing".
" I called you both here" the Imparetor stated to the both of them.
"Why is that sir?" Chris asked still keeping his saluting stance.
"Shadows are rising my boy, the terrors who rise in the night could possibly be upon us" the words shadows are rising drove a chill down Chris's spine.
"Here?" He wanted to be sure.
"We suspect so" the Imparetor didn't have his trademark goofy grin, he was deathly serious and it made the situation feel worse for Chris.
"What do you need us to do? " Theseus asked equally as serious.
"Investigate the arena you have been fighting in. It is a tunning rode with a great frequency that can be felt every time Mana is poured into it. Wizards from as far Joltveld can feel and i need to know what is happening" the old man explained.
" How will we report this?" Chris feared that echo communication might not be enough.
"Through Arumu Sycamore of course" the Imparetor regained his grin as from the shadows the lunch woman from the dinning hall emerged.
As she walked towards them, the visage of the old serving woman was blown away like a soft wind, the scowling face of the commanding officer they all knew.
"Arumu Sycamore ma'am" Chris saluted to her as well.
"At ease" she ordered them and they followed " This mission is a A rank mission. You are some of the highest and best trusted knights in here, you can not mention this to anyone ".
" But ma'am " Chris couldn't keep such a secret from his teammates, he already had his secret mission from Ishtar.
"I am afraid it can't be done Aeris Ddraig. The less people know the better and the other knights from afar here are not my people, i am afraid that i can't trust them with anything this important" the Imparetor walked towards him and gently placed his arm upon Chris's shoulder.
"Of course my Imparetor" he cursed himself internationally as he felt the metaphorical weight that Atla should have been feeling as they spoke.
Her spear struck the dummy with enough force to easily cut through the steel armor it wore like a hot knife through butter.
"An impressive blow, though dummy's don't fight back you know" Ursa said behind her, ending Pyrrha's training session.
The elvish spearwoman turned to her teammate who stood at the door of the Ashikage training hall. The hall was empty, the people who would be usually be her were in the arena watching the matches as they would her own soon.
She had wanted to shake off any rust and in order to get into the mood of battle she had decided to use the training hall for a brief warm up.
"Maybe you could substitute, i would love a good challenge" she said with the same predatory smile her mother used to scare her students.
"No thanks, getting pummeled isn't exactly how i want to spend my morning" Ursa said with a slight chuckle " Though should you be exhausting yourself before your match today ".
"This is just a warm up" Pyrrha said before she thrust her spear at the dummy once more splitting it's skull and helmet in half.
"A warm up?" Ursa raised her eyebrow in confusion " You have been here for three hours Pyrrha ".
" like i said, a warm up" Pyrrha repeated as she replaced her damaged dummy with a fresher one.
" Okay, you really are her daughter " she heard Ursa mutter under her breath and it placed a smile on Pyrrha's face before she returned to attacking the dummy.
"So, you spent a lot of time with Chris in the medical ward" Ursa spoke with a rather suggestive voice and face.
Pyrrha felt her body get hot and her strength vanish in embarrassment, making her lose the grip of her weapon, sending Gae-Assail sailing out of her hand and into a war.
"Y... Y... Yes... I... I... I dis... I mean i did" Pyrrha stuttered out as she felt a cold sweat roll across her body.
Ursa grew a big grin upon her face "Oh, did i touch something miss Ulster".
" Of... O... Of course not. Me and Christian are just friends and teammates. Surely you would have done the same!" Pyrrha managed to recover her wits and end her stuttering.
"Of course, of course" Ursa might have said that but she sent a look towards Pyrrha that the elf didn't like at all " So tell me, don't you think that looks cute when he pouts in his sleep".
Pyrrha's face was burning at this point. She ran to the wall, pulled out Gae-Assail and she fled for the door as she shouted at her teammate who had burst into laughter.
"I don't have to hear this Ursa!".
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I am a 21 year old law school student at the National Institute of Public Administration. My dream is to one day publish my story phantom ddriag and hopefully get a show made from it.
I also have a youtube account that hundels web fiction content, here is the link https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCFz-mHywXBJnLF8uyofcLAw/videos