Chapter 4

“Yes, although it takes too much mana to hold for long.” Zenith responded, a faint glow protruding from her index finger. “Wait a few seconds.” She closed her eyes and focused slightly. She thought of the spells and lightly whispered “[[Prison Wind]], [Mana Confinement].” The air stilled and the pressure swiftly increased as the mana in the air condensed and solidified on the walls.

“Earlier this month, our scouts had rescued some of the survivors from the capital city of Trent. The city is gone.” General William announced quietly. “Most of the fighting had been in the royal district and merchant quarters, and those areas have been mostly razed to the ground. The slums and outer residential quarters of the city are relatively intact, bar the city walls.”

“The slums and residential areas are still intact? Why would they do that?” Zenith asked the confusion evident in her eyes.

“Were there any survivors among the Royal Scouts? Although the slums may be watched, I refuse to believe that all of the smugglers tunnels leading out of the city were found.” Nick chimed in. In his experience, smugglers were often the only people you could count on to leave a trapped city unnoticed. He used abandoned tunnels himself when leaving for some assignments.

“A few managed to escape, mostly the trainees or their informants. They are currently undergoing therapy. Some of the survivors were not prepared to see some of the things they saw.”

“Paige, you are the expert here. Break the news?” William looked over at Paige, her head bowed as she stared at a relatively accurate model of Alcudia that he had placed on the table.

“To answer your question Zenith, demons from Trent are different than demons from Evidia.” Paige said quietly, everyone straining their ears to listen. “Alcudia has a large population of demons living in the country, but most are from Evidia and not Trent. To Trent, Evidia is a border demon nation, just like how Alcudia is a border human nation.” She looked between Nick and Zenith, “I know both of your countries look down upon Alcudia, in part because there are a lot of demons and half-bloods in the country. Evidia looks the same way to Trent.”

Zenith’s eyes widened and her face paled as she thought about what Paige was implying.

“Not all the stories you hear about demons are false. They can improve themselves with the use of blood sacrifices. And that is a quick death compared to some of the things they do.” Paige’s hand shook slightly under the table, unseen by the others. ‘Gods, it has been a long time since I’ve thought of those horrors.’

“Classes are the most sought out for blood sacrifices. They have some Skills that can enable them to find the most potent blood for their many rituals. But it only works if their target is mostly stationary and confined to a small area.”

Paige grimaced; her eyes hard.  “Classes, demons, halves, then humans. That is the order they sacrifice in.”

Everyone stared at Paige, not asking the questions they had on their mind.

“The survivors reported that the Demon Lord and his subordinates were headed to Mount Terst; more specifically, the royal mausoleum.” Stopping the conversation from continuing, William indicated on the model of Alcudia.

“Typically, all relics of dubious origin are housed in the vaults there. Theoretically, there should be nothing there of value that could move a Demon Lord.”

“So why do we care then?” Nick said. He had no intention of going on a mission that had a high chance of a pointless death. “Give that job to the scouts. Or make the reward high enough for the Guild Hall to place a bounty.”

“And why is Princess Isabella coming?” Zenith asked the question on their mind. Even Paige herself was not certain why she was coming along.

Tyler hesitated for a few seconds. “We have to go and secure whatever the Demon Lord wants first. If he wants it, then we want it as well. It may well be the reason why he started this war to begin with.”

“As such, the Guild Hall has issued a notice to investigate the royal mausoleum. A majority of the Alcudia government is in the dark about it.”

He looked over at William. “The reason General William is here still is because he is retired and was the one who notified the Guild, as such he will be our contact with the suppression army.”

“In response to why Princess Isabella is coming, the Guild did a comprehensive background check on all people with a class in the area. She was born with the class, a so-called class natural. Regardless of age, she must come. Trust me; I checked the records as well; Queen Rebecca hid the information well.”

Tyler frowned; annoyed at the information he was given. But the Guild was able to dig any secret out eventually, and without the Royal Castle isolating Isabella from the outside world, her class was eventually discovered. Even he was caught unaware, and he was the Captain of the Royal Guards at the time she was born.

“She was born with the Princess Class.” Isabella supplied, noting that Tyler did not answer the question.

“So, there’s even an unregulated Princess Class here. But that doesn’t tell me why I must go.” Nick growled. “Don’t waste my time.”

“Time. The formations around the mausoleum are complex, so it should take some time before the Demon Lord is able to gain entry. The princess is needed to access the royal mausoleum. A strike force consisting of myself, Paige, Zenith, and you will be able to go in and come out with relatively no obstructions.” Tyler responded, trying to dodge the question.

“You know what they want in there, don’t you?” Nick asked suddenly. “Otherwise, even the Guild Hall would be hesitant to use Regulation Six so liberally.” He knew as well as anyone present that Regulation Six had one requirement prior to being issued; an imminent threat to all of humanity.

“…A sword. We have reasons to believe there is a heroic class sword being stored in the vaults located deep in the mausoleum.”

“Damn it! Why the hell is a Hero’s sword in an unguarded mausoleum!” Nick swore out loud.

In truth, a hero sword was a popular misnomer, as anyone could use one. In the hands of a Warrior, it was still a better weapon than most, but only by a little. But in the hands of a Hero, the weapon was a boon, a direct gift from the gods themselves to their chosen. Usually, they were placed strictly in the hands of the Humanity’s Imperial family, to safeguard it until a human hero was born and needed a weapon.

The only problem was any race could have a Hero. A Demon Lord, for instance, was equivalent to a Human Hero. Thus, most races tried to collect these weapons before their enemies could.

“The mountain itself is a ley line, a natural location for mana to gather. That is why we are confident the Demon Lord will have some trouble with the formations around the mausoleum.” Tyler responded confidently.

“So not only has Alcudia not reported a Princess, but they also have a potential heroic class weapon.” Nick said darkly.

“It was not confirmed, there was only speculations of it. The royal family dug it out not even a year ago, right before the invasion began. As such, even I was just only informed of it when the current leader of the Royal Guard, Captain Riley, handed me a confidential letter from the late king.”

“The queen is head of the state, but the king holds a majority of the military’s power.” Paige responded, filling in for Tyler. “The queen told me the last time I visited three years ago, that they had potentially found an ancient battlefield and were planning to excavate it. Did the king actually find something there?”

Tyler responded. “That is unknown. However, the Guild and I cannot think of any other object that would be tempting enough otherwise. The queen was forced to send the news to the imperial family, about the weapon and the princess, but it probably will not arrive to them soon enough.”

‘That is probably where the information about her class was leaked to the Guild. Still doesn’t explain the sudden invasion.’ he thought quietly to himself.

“Fine.” Nick said curtly. Even he could not find a good reason to dodge this mission, not with a heroic class weapon at stake. “When do we leave?”

“Today, and as soon as we are done preparing. Princess Isabella is at the Guild Hall, being informed of her role. The royal family should know by now, and then it will take us about a two week to get there.”

“I will direct the war efforts to help mask your approach to the Mount Terst.” General William supplied. “Secure checkpoints have already been placed leading to the mausoleum, so you shouldn’t need a lot of supplies. Safe travels my friends, and good luck.”

As they left to go gather travel supplies, only Paige knew that bringing a Princess along might result in unintended complications.

Isabella was not having a good year. Not good at all. She was happy back in the palace, not a care in the world. But suddenly, her life was turned upside down as the country was invaded. “Please let me just stay here in the castle.” she prayed. Although not even remotely close to the style or grandeur of the Royal Palace, the sight of a keep and solid stone walls made her feel relieved.

Her prayers were short lived however, as the Guild requested her presence. Even though the royal family did not have to listen to the Guild hall, with the country in dire straits, her elder sister Alexandra acquiesced to their requests to meet her.

As the crown princess and next in line to the throne, Alexandra knew that Isabella was unique among their family. She was a Princess by birth, not just by status.

Royal titles such as Queen and Crown Princess were conferred upon them once the person in question had the recognition of their citizens and was not specifically a ruler’s true class.

Royal classes such as Princess were rare to receive at birth, since a country and the royal family had to be sufficiently old before it could be inherited, at least according to the few records available in Alcudia.  

As a result, Isabella was kept isolated from the rest of the world; her parents worried that if her class were to be leaked, she would be adopted into the Imperial family instead.

And now she was about to head to the outside world, even a potential battlefield, without any family, protectors, or comforts. “My class is worthless in battle! Everyone knows that one fact! I do not wish to go.” She pleaded loudly, her platinum blonde hair swinging side to side. “Let Alexandra go! She is the crown princess; it is her duty!”

Her voice traveled down the hallway to where Nick was waiting. ‘Just great, the princess is a spoiled brat. Just the travel companion I wanted.’ It was hard to miss the young princess; her face and arms were a health peach color, and her platinum hair was drawn in a ponytail, a diamond encrusted hair clip holding her bangs to the side. Adding in her haughty manners, her looks and personality instantly pegged her as royalty or someone with a powerful backer.

He had gone straight to the guild hall as soon as he was done at the castle keep. He had no need to prepare supplies like the others, since his training as a ranger mandated that he had travel supplies at all times. Thus, he arrived just in time to watch the guild master break the news to the young princess.

‘I wonder if my daughter will be like that in the future.’ Nick thought to himself. He quite missed his wife and daughter; only realizing now that it had been over two years since he had been home for any extended period. ‘I’ll cut back on the missions once I am done.” he thought to himself quietly, as Isabella complained loudly in the background. Making sure he had recorded the pertinent information, he quickly sent word to his fellow rangers that he was going on another mission. ‘…Please, tell my wife that I will be headed home for an extended break after saving the world. Again.’ He quickly sent the messenger bird out the window, as the conversation in the background was ending.

“Princess Isabella, please be reasonable. Look, even Ranger Nick from Leit Confederation is going on the mission. How can you not step up to the occasion? The destination is the Alcudia Royal Mausoleum to begin with.” Andrew, the guild master responsible for the Alcudia region, responded, chiding the young girl in front of him.

As the local Guild master, the fit old man had stared down even hardened convicts. Indeed, he was once renowned as a battle-hardened warrior; but the years of bureaucracy had mellowed his personality. The mere sight of a child not even a tenth his age throwing a temper tantrum flustered him. ‘This is what receptionists are for!’ he thought to himself. ‘Or maybe a secretary is what I need. Yes, I’ll add that to the budget next year. I have plenty of official guild business to do; I cannot be bothered to deal with every situation at hand.’

Clearing his throat, he spoke in a loud voice, drowning out the girl’s tantrum. “Guild Regulation Six requires this of you. The Princess Class is considered a higher ranked class, so you are going. And that is final.” He pushed her out of his office and locked the door. Isabella instantly turned around and started banging on the door. “You can’t do this! I don’t want to go!” as she started crying to herself.

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