Titan Beneath The Heavens - lightnovelgate.com
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It was the 26th day of the 7th month, Prince O'Neil had stayed in Andrew Haila for nearly a week. He and the Princess had countless appointments to attend to every day, and these people were the ones who already passed the initial filtering and had to be attended to, in other words, refusal is not an option. This had been a source of headache for Oscar, but Princess Alanis seemed to be enjoying it. Oscar knew she probably faked it, because the servant maids had been massaging her shoulder and her back every night, they said her back has got bright red chafe marks as a result of breast binder digging into her skin.
It's only a few days before the Army Day. As one of the Narcissus people's annual celebrations, Army Day brings a unique importance to them, and comes with a unique tradition.
Our Prince Oscar doesn't like to stroll on the street, but it's not his fault, Andrew Haila had next to no beautiful street sights to see. The teenager locked himself and his third brother in the cellar, away from the summer heat. The kid stole two bottles of fine wine in his dad's collection, while Cody was fine just having yogurt, the two settled in cozily. However, because of that, they missed out on the eye-popping changes occurring in Andrew Haila and the rest of Narcissus County because of Army day.
Andrew Haila, the capital of Narcissus County. This city hidden within thick walls had dressed up in celebratory colors. Colorful ribbons and sloganed cloth decorated the boring khaki brick walls, citizens hung military ensigns of the Narcissus Knights in front of their windows, business owners started promoting their fares with all kinds of discounts.
Every adult and children had changed into their new clothes. The summer clothing in Narcissus had stayed largely the same, unperturbed by the fashion trends of Dulin. Only the upper class citizens cared to match the fashion sense of Dulin, but most nobles in Narcissus County wouldn't go out of their way to purchase luxury items from Dulin or from Italia of the South like some upstarts. Even the classiest Lady Duchesses of House Andrew had only worn dresses and jewelries they had collected through the years.
The Prince noticed even the County of Narcissus was comprised of upper class and leisure class. The teenager had always thought the nobles in Narcissus to be military class, but most military officers started as commoners. No matter how much honor they've contributed, none of them can be knighted as Lords. This has to do with the royal strategy of 'Collaborative Confrontation', the royals controlled the amount of Narcissus nobles meticulously in order to prevent them from breaking away from the nation as their quality of life improved.
Army day is a day for Narcissus citizens, more importantly, a day for the Narcissus warriors. And those handsome knights, they are allowed to do things they usually refrain from, for example, asking a young lady for her hand in marriage! These knights who sacrificed all their youth had no time to search for a partner, or even chance upon a romantic encounter with a special lady like those in stories, their lives only consist of swords and skirmish.
Hence, a tradition started forming in the Narcissus County, large meetings were planned specifically for knights to find a mate, and the date? Army Day. On the day of celebration, single ladies would dress up to the parade. After it finishes, the ladies would approach knights they liked to meet them face-to-face. Of course, all the knights who participated in the parades were single.
In a typical Narcissus wedding, the opening speech usually features the couple smiling while saying a variant of "We met on the Army Day in Year X…"
Usually, the event on the Army Day only provides the knights and the ladies a chance to mingle. In the year after, the knights will need to contact the ladies, exchange mails, miss each other, and worry for each other. At the next Army Day, another feature of the day would be a mass wedding. Of course, a lot of ladies missed out on their knights, the Army Day of each year is filled with joy and happiness, as well as pain and depression.
Life has to go on! Having played with mud, built sandcastles, and chased after river crabs, Oscar finally got bored of his childhood past time, right before Cody brought him to experience a different kind of traditional game.
'Horseback War', the oldest game in Narcissus County, was one of the all-time favorite games for boys. The rules were simple, gather some boys, look for a vacant clearing, and split them into two teams. The two teams would have to go through another round of assignment, half of them pretend to be horses, and the rest knights. The 'horses' would carry the 'knights' and go into their respective position before they start.
The rambunctious girls would cheer for the boys, who would yell "Andrew Haila" and charge at each other. After a round of collision, the team with more 'knights' being pushed off their 'horses' would lose. The game could last all day, from the eastern border of Andrew Haila into the vast inland.
Narcissus boys would never sit quietly in the classroom. In order to disperse their extra energy, the school would organize these games as part of the school activities. Among the citizens, 'Horseback War' was the only way for boys to settle disputes. It avoided the possibility of actual fighting, bt at the same time allowed the boys to experience their first ever combat situation! Since young, they would be taught there's only one way to win the 'Horseback War', and that is to trust their partners, as well as cooperation. Some theorists say the Narcissus Knights' tactics were evolved from the game, it wasn't practical, but it acknowledged the value of the game.
At some point, 'Horseback War' became an official competition between schools. Every Army Day, Narcissus County would hold the finals for the competition between school on the military training ground of Andrew Haila. Participants and audience alike flood the place, even the important officials from the Narcissus Knights attended. Winners don't only get the honorary trophy, they were also allowed to pick a team to join when they were enlisted.
Oscar and Cody had already won themselves a reputation around the headquarters, the brothers had endured many challenges from other teams. Sometimes, even the Princess joined in the cheering. To the Princess, Narcissus boys were really full of courage and perseverance, they don't know when to quit, or be discouraged! No matter how many times they fell off their 'horses', they would rise up again to charge at their rivals.
"Foul!" Oscar has had enough! Where are all these muckers from?
"Foul!" Oscar shrieked! "That kid in the vest! How many times have you fallen? Are you freaking done or not?"
Even though he was indignant, Oscar liked this life of challenges!
The kid in vest smirked as he replied, "You wish! Look at your 'horse'! Pick on someone your own size! Why don't you get someone our size instead of him as your horse!"
Oscar smacked his lips against each other. He was kind of bullying the others, Cody was already twenty-something, and he had high endurance to boot!
Alanis came to them, she felt she had to say something. "I say, a foul is a foul, what if his 'horse' was bigger? A dozen of you were fighting against one."
"Girls have no place in a man's conversation!" The kid in vest didn't recognize the Royal Princess of Morisette Dynasty.
The Princess, being interrupted for the first time in her life, flushed in such fury she couldn't retort.
"That's enough! Apologize to the lady! Don't you have any basic manners?"
"Manners are not for the enemies!" The kid in vest sent signals to the other kids in his team while he spoke. As soon as he stopped speaking, all the kids started charging at him at once.
Oscar and Cody started barking at the others. The kids had changed tactics, some of the larger 'horses' tried to trip Cody's legs while the rest surged Oscar.
"Yogurt! Cody! Yogurt the unbeatable!" Oscar pulled one of the kids off his 'horse' with a single swipe, but he already felt tired. The rule of 'Horseback War' was that they could only pull their rivals but not punch. The Prince's hands obviously couldn't beat for other pairs of hands.
"Yogurt unbeatable!" Determined, Cody flung all the other kids away with two steps, and knocked the boy in vest off with a tackle. He swung around with Oscar on his back, they won!
When the boy yelled at them, attempting to get back up, a team of Narcissus Knights dressed in bright colors came into their sight.
"Hey! Both my brothers are here! How was the game?" Figg Andrew Tibotty approached Oscar with a cheeky grin.
The children were shocked! The hero of the Narcissus Knights! General Figg who led the Narcissus Knights to attack the Persian capital appeared in front of them! The two cheaters who handed their behind to them were his brothers, that must mean…
"We're okay! Are you back for the celebration?" Oscar leaped off his third brother's back, who groped at the reins of the second brother's horse.
"Yes I know! Can't you change it to cheese or something?" Figg lightly knocked Cody on his head with his knuckle.
Cody's hands flew to cover the spot, "Ouch…"
"Your Royal Highness! Good afternoon to you!" Figg ignored his brother and performed a dashing knight salute.
"Thank you! Good afternoon!"
The children were shocked. Royal Highness? Is this beautiful lady really the Princess who came to visit House Andrew?
"Haha, Oscar, you're such a bully to bring Cody here and torture the kids?" Figg turned toward his youngest brother.
"That's right! How does House Andrew with so many heroes come out with a boy like this?" The kid in vest complained loudly.
Figg took a look at him and laughed. "I know you, the kid from the Rayen's."
It's Oscar's turn to be shocked. "He's a Rayen? Kamille's brother?"
"That's right! I'm Karrol! My brother is the Paladin of House Andrew!"
Oscar didn't know what to make of it, but he knew his second brother must have important things to look for him.
"Second brother, ignore that kid, tell me, what is it?"
"What is it? The Princess and you are the highlight of this year's Army Day, right now my house was filled with nobles from the whole county."
"Another feast?" Oscar noticed his Raytheon stallion was brought over by a knight, looks like playtime is over.
The kids looked on with envy as the Prince with similar age to them hopped onto the legendary horse.
"Your Royal Highness!" Figg pointed at his horse under him, "Mind if I give you a ride?"
Oscar glared at his brother with disdain. Did no one tell him it was comparable to adultery to invite a Princess to ride on the same horse?
"Thank you! I think I like Raytheon better!" The Princess extended her arm to Oscar, who pulled her up happily.
"Oh! In that case, I need to get myself one." Figg muttered under his breath.
House Andrew's feast was simple, it was a crowd sitting together at a long table and eat as the food is served. This was significantly different from other places in the Empire. House Andrew's feat only include the dinner, while other places usually have an orchestra and a ball.
The feast was held at the Shanvelor Palace, even though most Narcissus nobles weren't fond of the unnecessarily complicated red-tapery, however due to the two Royals' presence, they prepared the feast according to the tradition.
The nobles waited until the Prince's and Princess' arrival before they took their seat, not even Duke Andrew was excepted. Everyone followed the Titan tradition of seating order very rigorously according to their rank and status. After everyone was seated, the host would give a customary speech followed by the most important guest. The Princess got used to the custom, so she put on a graceful show for the others. Next came the other guests' competition to shower their most cringeworthy compliments on her.
Of course, compared to other places, Narcissus nobles were much more guileless than some other places. Furthermore, more than half of the guests were military officers, so the whole feast was still pretty warm and stately. The soldier did what they are required to do, said what they are required to say, and the Ladies hid their shabby, outdated dressed cautiously in the presence of the princess/
Not all Narcissus people were welcoming toward the Princess, for example, the famous General Toshtor, as the Narcissus County's Quartermaster of Military Personnel Department, he didn't bother hiding his disdain toward the Morisette Royalty.
This was how he greeted the Princess as Duke Andrew introduced him, "Your Royal Highness, allow me to compliment your visitation, as with your arrival, even the iron provided by the Empire became higher in purity."
The Princess retrieved a notebook, she said, "General Toshtor, I know the military supplies the Empire provides to House Andrew has a strict standard of quality control, do you mean to say this standard was often not followed?"
"Precisely, Your Highness, that's exactly right." General Toshtor replied neutrally, what he said was a fact.
"Let's do it this way, I will pen down your concern, when I return to Dulin, I will reflect these concerns about quality of military supplies to father. I trust the Military Supplies Department will respond to your concerns as soon as possible, and the supplies they provide will no longer be problematic."
General Toshtor was slightly embarrassed by the way he acted, so he saluted the Princess, and compelled the Princess to have a drink.
This was only a small incident in the feast. Oscar had just gotten used to his family life, but now he'd already grown accustomed to feasts like this. He cold recognize most of the people, and no one treated him like they would a royal member. They'd still address him as 'Royal Highness', but would affectionately refer to him as 'Little Oscar'. To these Narcissus Nobles, this teenager is a citizen of Narcissus, and to add on it, the youngest child of Duke Andrew.
"Father, what is Kamille doing? I haven't seen him since our return." Oscar thought of the Paladin who escorted him, reminded by the boy in vest.
"Kamille? He was promoted to a regimental commander due to his excellence in the escort mission, as well as passing his Paladin trial. As of now, he's probably working on his compatibility with his new troop. What's the matter? Missing him?"
"Oh, not that, but it was because of him that I could return home safely. He and I were quite fond of each other's company."
"Yes, that's right. Which reminds me, what do you think of Murat Bedoya?"
Oscar finally remembered, it was that division commander whose ensign Oscar snatched. "Murat? I can't tell, but obviously, he can be quite chatty, and looks like a decent person!"
"Hehe, yes he is! You have found a treasure, I'm considering assigning you a direct division." The Duke laughed happily.
"Direct division? What for?" Oscar was slightly confused.
Celia set down her cutlery, she had heard about this. "Every Andrew descendant will be assigned their own division, like all three of your brothers, yes, even Cody, so we're left with you. Taking into consideration your safety, your father was considering assigning you a direct division."
"Yes I understand that, but what has that got to do with Murat?"
"I say, son! How have you become to dull? The first thing you did when you arrived home was to snatch Murat's ensign, that was the proof your encounter with the Red Tiger was an arrangement of the God of Light. Do you know, the ensign was the lifeline of an army? I have given an order this morning, Red Tiger and Murat is yours!" The Duke also set down his utensils. It was a necessity to assign his son a direct division, or else any rogue from Italia would be able to bully him.
"But… Don't I need to return to Dulin?" Oscar was slightly unnerved. "My own division? They wouldn't follow me wherever I go, would they? I don't think His Majesty would allow me to walk around the capital with a whole division of cavalry."
"No, father would agree to that!" Princess Alanis chimed in, "Don't forget, you're a prince of the Empire, you need to have your own army, it wouldn't make sense otherwise. Even I am a nominal commander of the Capital Guards!"
"Is it?" Oscar was truly astonished, "Why have you not brought it up before?"
"What is there to bring up? It was just a name. Besides, the guards don't listen to me." Alanis' spiritedness weakened. Evidently, she was dejected that she didn't have any control of the Capital Guards.
"Murat? The Red Tiger Division?" Oscar gave it a thought, but he wasn't too worried about it, he was still not in control of anything in front of his father, whatever his father said, he only needed to follow!
The preparation for Army Day was still underway. The front line of the Border Defense slowly retreated, the backup Defense forces also moved toward the border as fast as they could. The main road that was usually empty was filled with people, farmers trying to get to the market, as well as visitors who wanted to experience the Army Day.
The Army Day of Narcissus County was one of the most well-known carnivals in Westland. Because of its heavily military influence, there were countless Titans who admire the Narcissus from all around the nation visiting every year. They could enjoy the large-scale parade of the Narcissus Knights, join the locals to watch the 'Horseback War' finals, and even join the crowd at night to celebrate on the streets. The most attractive event was the matches between the Narcissus Knights. After the parade, the Narcissus Knights would hold an annual martial arts tournament, there would be representatives from every Front to participate in the events such as horsemanship, archery, swordsmanship, jousting, and other matches.
The history of the tournament could be traced back to before the Narcissus Knights was formed. House Andrew used to choose their warriors through matches like this.
Figg Andrew Tibotty had been talking about this year's competition non-stop. His knights had won three first places, as well as winning the jousting five years in a row. He bragged about continuing that result, as well as nabbing five wins and above.
His cockiness caused an uproar from his colleagues of other Fronts. The first one to rebuke him was the commanding of Ceres Front, the old General Koloniev who criticized Figg's attitude, followed by the captain of Seist Front, General Beled. He was one of Figg's uncles, but that wouldn't deter him from trying to defeat Figg. After that were captains of Coran and Liszt Fronts, they abandoned their troops at the border of Italia and came all the way back to headquarters just to cheer on their knights.
The last one to stand up was a woman, to be specific, the highest-positioned woman in the Narcissus army, Lieutenant General Laura Croft, the second-in-charge of the Military Statistical Bureau, advocating for the education, military wasteland reclamation, and women's right in the territory of House Andrew. The Lieutenant General said, "Respected Sirs and Generals of the Narcissus Knights, I look forward to see your matches with my subordinates' daughters."
The Generals shut their mouths immediately. They can stand up against the Marshal, but no one would even think to risk offending this female leader in the Narcissus County.
Princess Alanis had immense curiosity and admiration toward the female soldier in House Andrew. These ladies didn't participate in combats, but they are holding a position in the army, and they are responsible for matters that actually matter. It was a rare sight for Dulin, not to mention the whole of Westland. What does a woman do, not staying at home to serve their husbands and teach their children, but spending their daytime around various men? Goodness! Alanis looked at Lieutenant General Laura with applause in her eyes.
"How does Lieutenant General Laura obtain her achievements?" The Princess asked Lady Celia discreetly. The lady general had left her a deep impression.
"You mean Laura?" Lady Celia glanced at the female general. 'Perseverance! Valor! Don't be afraid of the opinions of the Prejudiced, even without the God of Light's guidance, I will climb the mountain tenaciously to reach my own peak!'
Celia turned to the Princess, "Your Highness, this was one of the sentence Laura wrote in her diary. If you can achieve that, your accomplishments would surpass any of the previous rulers in the Morisette Dynasty."
The Princess' gaze started to waver, 'Perseverance', 'Valor', 'Prejudice', 'My own peak!' These phrases spun into the lady's heart. She seemed to see herself standing on the pedestal, receiving the praise and love of thousands of citizens.
"Thank you, respectable Duchess Andrew." The Princess saluted to Celia.
Celia nodded, accepting the salute. She knew her words had struck a chord in the Princess.
7th Month, 28th Day, it was one day before the Army Day, the preparation inside the Narcissus County had entered its final stage. Outside Andrew Haila city, the parading Narcissus Knights erected a boundless tabernacle. The knights were comprised of fifteen Fronts, each Front sending out an impressive phalanx of a thousand knights.
On the massive plain outside of Andrew Haila, an orchestra of commands and horse trots formed. Citizens from all over the city brought them cooling water and fruit wine with a faint taste intermittently. Girls deliberately came all the way to the outskirts of the city to stand and watch the cavalry.
The Knights raised their voice in response. Before that, they cleaned their horses up and shined their weapons, they used the most expensive grease to perform maintenance on their inherited armors, they even took their capes they never wore. Maybe, this year they'd be able to get lucky and get acquainted with a few pretty Andrew Hailan ladies!
"Andrew Haila!" The cheer could be heard throughout the training ground, teams and teams of young men were carrying out last minute practices. Formation, tactics, cooperation, charging, anything to help them throw their rivals off of their 'horses'. The amount of seriousness they put into the game were as if they were going onto the battlefield the next day.
That's right! The training ground would be used as the boys' battlefield tomorrow! The sweat and blood of the past year had been a preparation for the 'battle' tomorrow. With the single-round elimination system, the significance of any failure would be the same as death! The future of Narcissus youths were foreordained to be spent on battlefields, to them, 'Horseback War' is not a game, it's not even a competition, their participation symbolized their transition into a man, marching toward the battlefield!
Citizens of Andrew Haila had only a few days in a year when they can completely relax, they have too much work to do. Usually, every household would take care for a warhorse, every household would need to voluntarily help out the army for half a month, every household would make a set of military uniform for the army. All four seasons, Narcissus citizens held their silence and stitched the pain into the uniforms.
"These uniforms are bound to be splashed with blood!" Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette sighed painfully.
"Yes!" Racheff Andrew Nedgabel replied to his youngest brother, he originally wanted to bring Oscar to witness the spectacularity of the training ground, however it looked like it may have backfired.
"Look!" Racheff pointed at the camp crowded with people. "The busiest time in the year is when the army reclaim the military supplies."
"Is our clothes factory not providing enough for consumption?" Oscar was a little suspicious, he saw over thousands of people turning over their fall season uniforms.
"Oh no, it's not a question of consumption, it's the sudden increment of soldiers. The production rate from ten years ago can no longer keep up with our needs. For example the uniforms, we can only afford to give out raw materials to the citizens for them to produce the uniforms without pay."
"Why is it without pay? Even a token fee to the citizens can be helpful!" Princess Alanis didn't understand, she thought House Andrew was treating its citizens somewhat cruelly.
"You didn't know?" Racheff laughed, he thought the Princess' question was ridiculous.
"House Andrew's budget had been the same since half a century ago, do you take us for wealthy people? Like you said, we can't even afford a token fee for these uniforms."
The Princess quietened, House Andrew's military budget had always been provided by the Empire. As a member of the Royal Family, she felt awkward being posited the situation. If she didn't come to Narcissus County, she wouldn't have believed there are people in the world who worked so hard, and considered the honor of sacrificing as a reward in itself. Looking back, as the ruler of Titan Empire, the royals of Morisette Dynasty seemed so calculative.
Racheff knew his words may come across a little heavy, but it was the truth, just as General Toshtor said. Racheff knew he shouldn't continue the topic anymore then he needs to, so he asked his knights to open a path for them.
"Your Royal Highness, it's going to get chaotic here, let's leave before it does."
"Oh yes! You're right!" Alanis agreed, her thoughts were largely in disorganization. She gave it some thought, and finally understood why the Royal Family would use such as strange tactic with House Andrew. After witnessing different facets of House Andrew, she lost her initial affection toward them, leaving only fear.
Alanis was scared of House Andrew, just like how all the other members of Royal Family were. They were afraid of this strong, god-like charisma House Andrew wield and how it would be like if they were allowed to continue this development.
Andrew Dynasty! The never-existed noun leapt into the Princess' mind. No! Princess Alanis quickly erased it from her mind, House Andrew wouldn't do something like that! They are loyal to the Royal Family! They are devoted in their belief! Alanis completely rejected the possibility that House Andrew would continue developing.
"Huh? What did you say?" Alanis was shocked out of her fear! Someone was talking to her, she tried to appear as calm as possible, but she noticed every person around her only looked at her with a confused face.
"Your Royal Highness… I was looking for His Royal Highness Prince O'Neil."
"Oh! Right, excuse me, I'm… a little out of it!" The Princess apologized profusely, afraid that the others might spot her unnaturalness.
"Is something wrong? You look antsy. Tired?" Oscar asked with concern.
"Oh, no… I… yes! I'm a little tired." Alanis changed her mind.
"You should return to the mansion. Big brother, do you mind escorting Alanis?"
"Of course not! It is my pleasure."
Oscar stared at Princess Alanis' back with a worried look on his face. He knew something must have happened to Alanis. He hadn't seen her being this anxious, not even when they're facing a life-and-death situation.
"Are you looking for me?" Oscar turned toward the mounted officer who blocked his path with a team of knights.
"Yes, Your Royal Highness!" The officer saluted him on his horse. "Your Highness, Sir, I am a Chief Inspector from the Military Personnel Bureau, stationed in Andrew Haila. Please call me by my name Bovard, or by my title of Lieutenant Colonel."
"Of course Lieutenant Colonel! Is there anything you want to tell me?" Oscar felt weird, what does the chief inspector of Andrew Haila want from him?
"Yes sir! I've captured a team of dangerous individuals claiming to be your followers in their confession. I wish to get confirmation from you, otherwise, according to the law, they should be executed."
"Ah…" Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette felt a sense of powerlessness from the depth of his soul. His followers? He had been meeting people the past few days, his followers must have stirred up a hge trouble! The teenager had only remembered his followers were, in fact, a bunch of dangerous individuals.
"Agh… What did they do?"
The Lieutenant Colonel produced a piece of paper from his chest pocket and read aloud, "The court accused the defendant against twelve charges, number one, carrying deadly arms, number two…"
"That's enough!" Oscar interrupted the Lieutenant Colonel, he knew it! He knew the group of killers, conmen, and idiots, with the King of Sins leading, would never care about his reputation.
"Let's… go and have a look!" The teenager chose to compromise with the reality. He hated these people to their guts for their unruliness! They've already left Damorga Prison, can't they be a decent person like he does?