Passage Chapter 15
The mid-morning sun beamed down on the city, bright and warm and pleasant. Queen Lymsleia soaked up the light as she stood on the walkway to the palace, just a few paces away from Miakis. Miakis watched Lymsleia relaxing as a child would, and she chuckled to herself, remembering just how young the girl really was.
It feels good to get some sunshine, doesnt it, Your Majesty? she asked.
It sure does, Lymsleia replied contently. And...I dont know why, but theres something different about it, like...its a new light, or something.
Heh, heh. Miakis stepped up beside the girl. I think youre just relieved that this whole mess is nearly at an end.
Too bad it means saying good-bye, though...
Struck by both the female knights words and tone, Lymsleia turned to her with an uneasy look. Wh-what do you mean?
Think about it, Your Majesty, Miakis said, staring straight ahead. Galleon and Kyle were on the verge of leaving the Queens Knights before the murders began. Once everything is back to normal, theyll likely continue with their original plans. Then all our other friends will leave...theres Murad and Silva...actually, I get the feeling Galleon might leave with Silva...heh, heh, heh...
Oh...with everything going on, I...I guess I forgot about all of that.
Yeah. Itll just be you and me, Your Majesty. Well be without a commander again when the Lindwurm Mercenaries leave--
Lymsleia felt her heart jump.
--but Im sure we can manage for the time being, Miakis continued, and then her face brightened. Oh, but the good news is that our trainees are improving, so hopefully it wont be too long before we have a full roster of knights. And, hey, maybe your brother and Lyon will be back by then!
Yeah, the young queen said, though the reply was unusually half-hearted. She brought her gaze down, absorbing the shock of these reminders.
Say good-bye? she thought, suddenly depressed. It feels like Ive been saying good-bye too much lately. I said good-bye to Brother, Lyon, and Georg. I had to say good-bye to Mother or Father, whether I was ready or not. And now I have to say good-bye again. But how can I, just when Im getting used to the way things are? How can I say good-bye to Galleon, or to Kyle?
...or to Richard?
A few days elapsed, and Lymsleias combat training was well underway...or so her instructors would have liked to claim. The girl was not quite what people would call a natural at sword fighting. Though she was something of a tomboy, somehow she just could not pick up the art.
No, no, Miakis was saying. Try not to flail all around as you--wait, no. Keep steady. Youve got to-- She gasped as the girl came at her clumsily, and she dodged the wooden point that had almost scraped her jaw.
S-sorry! Lymsleia looked embarrassed. I didnt mean to. I just...Im no good at this.
Youre the one who wanted to learn how to defend yourself.
Lymsleia let the wooden sword drop by her side, and she threw her head back in frustration. Youre always going to hold that over my head, arent you? She then sighed, turning her gaze back toward Miakis. Im sorry, youre right. I did ask you, and I shouldnt complain. Im just not sure if this is the way, though.
Yeah, thats crossed my mind once or twice, the female knight admitted, and then her expression was replaced by an impish grin. So thats why Im setting you up with a different sparring partner. When Lymsleia reacted with alarm, Miakis added, Dont worry. This person knows what to do. I have a feeling hed be a better teacher than I could ever be. She then turned toward the door. Hey! You can come in now!
The doors to the audience chamber opened, and there, in plain sight, was none other than Richard. Back in his mercenary outfit, he marched in, practice sword at the ready.
Good morning, Your Majesty! he greeted her, smiling. Ill be your sparring partner today!
Lymsleia wasted no time turning to Miakis with an appalled look. Are you nuts? Why dont you just ask a kitten to fight a stone golem?
Dont worry, Your Majesty, Richard told her. Ill go easy on you.
If...if you say so...
There you are!
Richard turned around as Kyle and Galleon entered the room. Oh...hello there.
Is it time already? Miakis asked, and then turned to Richard. Hey, Richard, come over here for a second. We want to talk to you about something.
Huh? Oh, okay. Um... He briefly looked in Lymsleias direction. Sorry, could you wait a second?
Uh...sure, Lymsleia said with a mixed expression.
You can practice those swings like I showed you, Miakis suggested. Just remember what I told you.
While Lymsleia attempted to follow her instruction, Richard joined the three knights off to the side. For a moment, they looked at the girl, watching her flimsy form and pitiful swings.
Shes...horrible, Galleon remarked quietly.
Yeah, no kidding, Kyle added. Some people should never pick up a sword. What were you thinking, Miakis?
I was thinking that Im following Lymsleias orders! Miakis fumed. Give me a little credit.
Fine, Ill credit this bad performance to you, Kyle quipped. In the meantime, shes going to need a lot of work.
Richard smirked, watching poor Lymsleia. Well, as my dad used to say, theres always room for improvement.
Your dad? Miakis asked, partly confused and partly suspicious.
Huh? The teen turned back to the three, feeling his face flush. Did I say that? I meant Mueller! Guess Ive been around him too long, hes like a dad to me! Hahaha.
The knights all exchanged looks with one another, and Miakis shook her head. Anyway, we had a proposal for you.
Really? What is it?
Toward the center of the room, Lymsleia practiced furiously, trying to perfect--or at least produce--a proper swing.
I just cant get the hang of this, she thought in disappointment. Ive watched Kyle, Georg, Lyon...even Father...couldnt I have picked up even one thing? Oh well. She continued practicing her moves, paying more attention on the swing itself and less attention on anything else.
...So if its okay with you, we dont mind, Miakis was saying to Richard. Between the three of us, wed like to keep you as Commander. I mean, should you choose to leave the mercenaries, even for a short while. What Im saying is, youve always got a home here.
Richards eyes widened in surprise. Oh, thats...very generous of you. I dont think Ill quit the Lindwurm Mercenary Brigade, though.
Well...at least think about it, wont you? asked Kyle.
I suppose Ill have all the time in the world to do that, the teen replied with a smile. But correct me if Im wrong. Wont that position be filled anyway when she gets married?
Miakis let out an abashed chuckle. Probably, she admitted, but I dont think shell get married for quite some time. Shes really adamant about choosing her own husband.
Besides, I dont think shed object if you did return, Kyle said, his look sly. Youve really made an impression on her, and youve got her full trust. Actually, the same goes for all of us. And thats important when working with someone in the Queens Knights.
Hahaha. Well, thank you for the offer. Ill certainly think about it. Richard shifted his weight back. But for now? Im just waiting for Mueller to return. Well probably go back to Zelant when this is over...
Keep steady, keep steady, Lymsleia silently ordered herself, beads of sweat appearing on her forehead. Go, go... She hadnt noticed she had drifted closer to the group.
Well, good for you, Miakis said. I wouldve hoped you could stay a little longer, but of course, its your decision.
That means a lot to me, Richard told her, taking a couple of steps back. Thanks.
Not realizing she was mere few feet away from the group, Lymsleia focused all of her energy on a side movement. Here we go...! She took the hilt in both hands, her shoulders square, and swung full-force to her left.
Anyway, Id better get back to Her Majes-- argh--! Richard felt the carved blade smack across his backside, and his whole body tensed up for a moment before he dropped to his knees. Ugh...
Richard! the three knights shouted in unison.
Huh? Lymsleia looked at Richard in alarm. D-did I...? Oh my gosh! She dropped the blade, horrified, covering her mouth with her hands. Richard, Im sorry! I didnt realize you were there!
Oh, great, said Kyle sarcastically. The one time Lym hits anything, she takes out the commander!
Richard forced a laugh, somewhat embarrassed. Ill...Ill be all right. I shouldve been watching. Ow...
So should I, Miakis said, though she wore an expression of awe. Your Majesty, Im so sorry. I shouldve realized...you need a weapon you can wield with two hands!
Several hours later, Richard and Lymsleia had taken a leisurely stroll through the city and were now returning to the palace. It was the first time in quite a while that either one of them had gotten to do...absolutely nothing related to work or duty.
You know, its really not that bad, Richard was saying. Maybe you arent suited to wielding swords, but there are plenty of other weapons you could use.
Youre right, the girl said. She was still in her training outfit, and had gotten plenty of strange stares from the citizens. However, she didnt really mind. After all, neither Galleon nor Miakis have swords, and theyre both wonderful knights. I think Ill toss the practice sword and ask Miakis if I could practice with her daggers.
Well, just be careful. Im pretty sure those are dangerous.
Lymsleia found herself bothered by the implication, whether it was intentional or not. Richard, Im not scared. Ive had blades pointed at me before. You should know. At least here, Id be in control.
Huh? Oh, I-I didnt mean you were incapable. I just meant they look pretty sharp. Im not sure if Id want to wield them.
The queen was taken aback by these words. Really? But youre so good at this combat thing. Didnt you start training since you were my age?
Your age...? He looked at her, but suddenly found himself thrown into a time he had been trying for years to forget.
Get up! What do you think youre doing?
Ugh...weve been practicing for ten hours straight. My knee still hurts from yesterday...
Oh, dont be a baby. My comrades can practice for twice that time with ten times the injuries! Youre a disgrace!
Im just a kid! I shouldnt be doing this just yet!
Youve got a head start on all these morons! Yesterday, I met a fifteen-year-old who couldnt tell a codpiece from a chin guard. Well, that little fool will be limping for a week. And it serves him right!
Are you deaf? I said get- up-!
Ow! Father, dont!
Just shut your mouth and get up. Youre gonna be just like your old man when you grow up. And dont you even think about letting me down.
Is something wrong, Richard? Lymsleia questioned him, noticing how sick he looked all of a sudden.
What? As Richard drifted back to reality, his skin color reverted to its normal tone. No, of course not! he insisted with a chuckle, though sounded quite nervous. I, uh...lets just say I started a bit earlier than you.
Well, that explains why youre so good at such a young age.
Yeah, uh...I guess...
Are you all right? she asked, realizing he was still not quite himself. If I said something to offend you, I apologize.
Richard shook his head. You havent done anything, Your Majesty. It was just a very long time ago, and I always find it harder and harder to remember.
Oh...well, I suppose after a while, you let go of a lot of memories. Galleon tells me that sometimes, even he cant remember what exact year he joined the Queens Knights. Her laugh was appropriate, though somewhat forced. So then...are you okay?
Of course! the teenager insisted, sounding closer to normal. Never better. In fact, nothing could ruin this perfect day... huh?
What is it? Lymsleia asked.
Richards eyes scanned the area just before the palace, and all of the people present. Its the mercenaries, he told her. Theyre...theyre back? Then that means...its over!
Joy was the young queens initial reaction. Oh, thats wonderful news! she exclaimed, but felt downhearted beyond this. Wonderful...
Thats great! Then Wilhelm can take another job, and Ill be well enough to fight with Mueller, and-- He stopped upon overhearing a conversation between a group of mercenaries.
...a shame. I wanted to pay my last respects before, but...
I know. The guy deserves more than this. I mean, hes always been tough on us, but I really respected him, you know?
Yeah, and no matter what hes said, I know he respected all of us. Sacrificing himself just to protect a wounded soldier...thats...thats...
If it werent for that other assassin making that surprise attack, he wouldve been just fine.
Im so sorry, guys! I was there...! When he took a hit to the chest, I tried so hard to stop the bleeding, but medicinal herbs dont really do much there...
Its not your fault! Its those damn assassins! Im just glad we killed them all. At least, the ones involved in the plot.
So how much longer does he have left...to live?
You mean Mueller?
Richard went white.
The doctor said a few hours...at the most. I hate to say it...its all over for him.
With a frightened exhalation, Richard immediately left Lymsleias side, bolting toward the palace.
Richard! called the young queen, then stopped, her expression becoming sorrowful. Oh, Richard...
Damn it... Wilhelm muttered, shaking his head.
In the infirmary, he stood by the window, his arms crossed. On the bed lay Mueller, who bore critical wounds to the chest and back, as well as a broken arm, all of which now prevented him from doing much of anything. Silva, a female doctor with many years of practice, was trying to make the severely injured man as comfortable as possible.
Im not going to do it, Wilhelm continued, turning around. It was strange to see him so emotional, though it was perfectly justified. You begged me. You begged me...to drag your sorry ass back here, and now you want me to tell him the news? Sniffling, he shook his head. Im not gonna do it. Im not breaking the kids heart. Thats your responsibility.
Im on my deathbed, you fool, Mueller retorted weakly. I thought that...that Richard would be back when we returned, but apparently hes off in the city with the queen. Its not that I want you to do it.
The scruffy-looking man sighed. Mueller...
Where is he?! called a panicked voice. Is it...is it true?!
Wilhelm exchanged worried looks with Mueller, and then turned to the door as Richard appeared.
Oh, said Mueller softly. So you are here.
I dont understand, Richard said as he cautiously approached, his horrified eyes confirming the truth. You...how could...how could you be injured? Youre a great warrior! Easily the best! Theres no way that--
Damn it, boy, would you stop putting me on a pedestal like that? grumbled the man, wincing in pain. I did one little act for you. Though I wouldnt say it was a mistake, I regret having been the one to do it. Its earned me the full-time job of being the recipient of your unwanted admiration.
Seeing the hurt look upon the teenage boys face, Mueller sighed. I didnt mean that the way it came out. Actually, on second thought, maybe I did, a little. Listen...Richard. When Im gone, theres no need to go around acting like a lost lamb.
Dont talk that way, Mueller! Richard exclaimed, his tone and expression both desperate. Youre going to live!
Oh, please...I can feel myself getting weaker...by the minute. But...I have enough time...to tell you this. Look. Look at me. Im dying, boy. Seeing the young warrior shake his head furiously, he raised his tone. Look at me! Richard! Richard...please...if there was any time I needed you to do something for me, its now. Please. Will you at least listen? Can you do that? Please...
Richard was silent, but he reluctantly made his way over to the man.
Good... Mueller whispered, letting out a few weak coughs. Look...I know how much you think you need me around, but the truth is...you dont. After a certain point...you never did.
Thats not true--
It is, boy, and you know it. Hell, everybody knows it. Youre the great warrior, Richard. After a while, you even surpassed me. Yet you still clung to me. Id like to say I dont understand...why someone as powerful as you would stick with someone who only hinders him from reaching his full potential... but to tell you the truth... if I really thought about it, I could. I could understand. I wont tell you why, because deep down, I think you know too. But I will say this. Richard...you do have the potential. Everyone has seen it in you. I know you have the confidence to lead your own unit. All you need is the desire.
Dont b-but me. Stop acting dumb and incompetent. Youre the Commander of the Queens Knights! And...afterward, youll continue your legendary status in the Brigade. Regardless of whether Im here or not.
Richards expression suddenly changed to one of absolute sadness. I-I just...I know...Mueller. I know whatll happen for me. I was just...afraid. Not of taking on responsibilities, but of not being able to repay my debt to you before...before...
Mueller shook his head calmly, sighing. Richard... He reached out, taking the teenager by the hand. No matter what you do, youll never repay the debt to me. Do you know why? There was never a debt to begin with. You were the one who imposed the debt. I...never expected anything of you...outside of what Id expect of an ordinary soldier...yet you still returned more than anything I ever did for you. I know you wanted to impress me, and believe me, I was impressed. But I never wanted to let you know. I thought that...if I showed any sign of interest in your talent...youd take that as a reason to stick by me...and never fulfill your own potential. Lucky that didnt backfire, eh?
For a moment, the teenagers spirits were lifted. Then...all this time, you admit it...? Thats...all I really wanted...to give something back. Thank you, Mueller...
Heh. A smile appeared briefly on the mans face. Dont...let it go to your head, fool, he grumbled as he laid his head back. Its not like...youre all that... With a soft, extended exhalation, he began to close his eyes.
Mueller...? Richard said, feeling the mans grip become loose. Mueller? He uttered a barely audible cry of disbelief. No... He studied Muellers still form for clues to dispel reality--but all he found were eyes that refused to open, a chest that no longer rose with breath...a life that no longer clung to existence. N-no... Tears began to flood the boys eyes--tears once prevented by the very man he was now shedding them for. Please...no...noooo...!
Finally accepting the reality of the situation, Richard threw his head back in despair. Muueeellerrrr! he wailed. Dont leave me. Dont leave meee...! He gripped Muellers limp hand more tightly and brought his head down, sobbing. Mueller...
With a bitter face, Wilhelm took Richard by the shoulders and began to pull him back. Richard, however, resisted.
No! he shouted, shoving Wilhelm away.
I said no! Just leave me alone! With that, he took off, leaving the others to watch as he fled the room.
Silva turned to the scruffy-looking man. Why didnt you stop him?
Are you kidding? Wilhelm scoffed. I dont even want to get in the kids way when hes in a good mood. And besides, he needs to be on his own, anyway. His look turned solemn. He...has to come to terms with everything thats happened...none of us can make that happen. Hes got to decide that on his own...
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