Chapter 31

 “Do you want the good news, bad news, or terrible news?” Tyler said as soon as he arrived back to their little settlement in the woods. He strode into the house and started pacing nervously.

“Quiet Tyler, we just got Markus down for a nap. Start with the good news first. We can always come back to the bad or terrible news if we must.” Zenith said sagely.

Tyler stopped and breathed heavily. He puffed himself up with pride. “First off. I sold all the bows you made Nick. I was able to sell them for almost three gold a piece. Even got some assurance for repeat customers for future business.”

Nick swore loudly. He toned down his voice after noticing the glare from both Paige and Zenith. “They are worth a minimum of at least twenty gold Tyler! Each! Ten would be pushing your bottom line pretty bad. Hopefully they needed it.” He hissed angrily.

“Damn. I knew I should’ve pushed the purchase price higher. I’m used to dealing in steel weapons, not wooden ones. I’ll need some pointers on wooden weapons if your planning on making more.” Tyler sighed, his proud look gone. “Well, they were a group of rookies mercenaries, so this should be a good boon for them.”

“It should for the quality of the weapon that they got in return.” Nick grumbled. “Hell, even Apprentice Rangers wouldn’t qualify to use those bows. Ones that you literally sold for practically a silver coin for every gold you could have earned.”

“Well, at least you built some rapport with them. Maybe offer them some more discounts, that’ll get your name out fast to the local mercenaries at least. You’ll need a wide range of clientele to be a successful merchant,” Zenith supplied helpfully, trying to ease Tyler’s mood.

Tyler shook his head and grinned ruefully. “Well. It is what it is. I got a good price on the seeds and other necessities though, so we should be good on that front. Paige, I took the liberty of buying a goat, some chicken and a sheep too; since we have a barn. They’re all out by the cart.” Tyler spoke decisively about his purchases. They weren’t cheap and he used all the gold he had just earned.

“Well, weapons sold for cheap and our supplies gathered, was there any other good news?

“I found an Apprentice book of common spells and skills. Nothing major, but it is one of the more common reference books. I also talked to the mayor as well. The town will send their inspector out next tax season, so we have a year at least before someone will come to check. IF they decide to come next year.”

“They will. A good farmer can have at least four harvest year round, and the quality of bows will also fetch a hefty sum. No tax collector will miss us.” Paige shrugged as she leaned back in her chair, balancing on the one good leg that had not fully rotted out.

“The bad news. The war against Trent has been pushed back to the borders of Evidia and Alcudia.” Tyler said with a grimace. Everyone sat up, waiting to hear what was wrong with that. “The Imperial Family took over the war efforts, under the guise of “Protecting Humanity’s Borderlands”. The Alliance army has withdrawn their troops as well.”

Zenith was confused why that was a bad thing, and her face reflected her confusion. Paige sighed “The Alcudian Royal family is practically a puppet government right now. Where you able to find the terms of their agreement?”

“No. But I did find something else out. Mount Terst is gone, and most of our deaths are public knowledge.”

“Most? How is it most?” Nick said, confused why he worded the news that way.

“Some things have…changed, as we all know.” Tyler looked at Paige first, worry in his eyes. “I’ll start with the major changes first. Paige, you don’t exist. No one has heard of your name. Even when I asked who the Queen’s best female friend was, none of them said your name.”

Paige frowned thoughtfully. “So history has changed? Wait, you said ‘best female friend’. Why did you ask it like that?”

“Someone did travel with the Queen, but his name was Peter. From what I can tell, everything you have ever done was attributed to him instead. Even the party was led by Peter Alduit, with Royal Vanguard Tyler Merk, Wind Mage Zenith Hall, and Ranger Dave as support.” Paige blinked, her eyes going wide as she thought about something unknown.

“Ranger Dave? He’s not even remotely qualified to act as a Diplomat’s escort. Where was I in all of this?” Nick frankly supplied.

“I don’t know. I’ll try and get more information on you Nick, but with us being far from Leit, it will be hard to gather accurate intel.”

“Zenith, I found some information on you, but it’s not pretty either. Your family gave you a state funeral for you after your death at Mount Terst. But it was rumored that they crossed your name out of the family register, for falling in love with Peter Alduit. You are no longer part of the Hall family.”

“The, they crossed me out of the family?” Zenith sat in her chair, shocked. “J, ju, Just because I fell in love with someone else?!” She started shaking as her outrage grew. “And I suppose it has to do with my fiance? The one my family supposedly found for me?”

Tyler nodded his head slowly. “Apparently it was from another founding family. They were rather discontent that you made your own decisions.”

“Of all the…” Zenith stood up and ran outside, tears streaming down her face. Nick followed after her quietly.

“Tyler, what is it that you always wanted? More than anything else in the world?” Paige asked, her features worried.

“I … ” Paige interrupted him immediately. “Not the first thing that comes to mind Tyler. Really think hard about this.”

They both waited for Zenith and Nick to come back. Tyler thinking quietly to himself while Paige went upstairs to grab Markus after he had started crying for attention. She started to rock him while she thought about her hypothesis once again. ‘Peter. Peter Alduit. But he died shortly after everyone else did. I know he did! I buried them all myself. Thinking back though, Peter was a good flirt, and his social skills were pretty good as well. And now I’m a Farmer…’ She sighed, knowing that the circumstances could no longer be described as coincidental.

Nick and Zenith walked into the room shortly thereafter; Paige noting that they were holding hands. “The formation Zenith,” causing the girl to jump away from Nick and blush, “I know another part of the formation. It changed the world to fit our deepest desires.”

Zenith tilted her head and frowned. “How’d you come to that conclusion?”

Paige hesitated, but steeled her nerves and told them all bluntly, “I never wanted to be a Princess or a Warrior. I always longed to go back to my childhood, where I was just a Farmer’s daughter. Not a Princess burdened by fate. Not a Warrior burdened by responsibility. Not risking my life in a fight. Just me, and a quiet life. And I think I got some of what I wished for.”

Paige didn’t bother to look any of them in the eye. “I once had a brother named Peter. But he died before I became a Princess. I assume that the formation tried to change everything, but it could not change how big of an impact I made throughout the Empire. So it did the next best thing and attributed everything I ever did with my brother instead.”

Tyler spoke up, his eyes serious. “I was tired of the responsibility. Tired of watching over the Royal Court, with all it’s subterfuge and politics. All I wanted was to go and make an honest living. I was jealous of how free a Merchant’s life was.”

“Think about it for a moment. What do both of you really want in life? If you had the chance?”

Zenith paled slightly. ‘I wanted to be different. To be loved and part of a family. To be…’ Tears started running down her face as she realized why she had become Anna. Nick. She wanted to fall in love with Nick. And now it happened in the worst way imaginable.

Nick gasped, “I wanted a second chance with my family. I was regretting not spending time with my family.” He turned toward Zenith, his eyes full of compassion. “Zenith, I’m sorry.”

“It’s not yo, your fault, Nick.”

Paige sighed. “All that remains now is figuring out Isabella, Markus, and the Demon party members. What desires did they have?”

“Paige, what should we do now? We’re practically dead to the world.”

“We keep it that way for one. Reincarnation is impossible. Even the Head Imperial Healer can’t reverse death. For all we know, we all had a dream and awoken some memories.”

“How likely is that Paige?”

“Not very likely. But it is a safer reason than saying we reincarnated. That will bring us a whole lot of trouble. One that we certainly can’t defend against, not with our current classes.” Paige warned severely. “I cannot stress how much we have to hide our identity. Think of excuses now, as well as backstories for anything you might know. Tyler, you parents were a confidant of Tyler Merk, and you were named in his honor. Zenith, Nick, make something up that is reasonable. Birthright transfer, secret mentor, something. It just has to be within the realm of reason, no matter how farfetched.”

“Paige. What about your ring? Can it be traced back to you?”

“No, it… should be safe. At least in theory. Spatial rings are rare, and the people who can make it are even rarer. You’d have to be in very close proximity to notice any anomaly. As a High Class, it’s almost impossible for others to tell what you have on you, since your mana would be highly condensed, but as a Farmer…we’ll have to test that out later. Let me check what equipment is in there though. I don’t think I have anything with me that could trace back to our actual identities.”

“Ring ring ring, show me my stuff.” Paige said loudly as the ring glowed brighter and brighter. A simple box appeared in front of Paige, who stared at it nervously. “Oh. well I might have to amend my statement. I have a ton of stuff that may get us in trouble.” She tapped on the boxes and familiar items appeared in front of her. One the most conspicuous of all.

A tower shield with the royal insignia. A staff and magic robe. A pendant with a bow in the middle. And a necklace with a simple, intact sapphire at the end of it. One that had her name engraved on it. Her Imperial Wardstone.

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