Chapter 56

“Monster? Do you know something about him?” Zenith asked quietly.

Paige hesistated. She knew she was going to have to tell some of her past to her Party, especially the parts she wanted to forget. “Yeah, there are a few things that I knew about him. Well, before I killed him anyways. He didn’t have the best reputation, even amongst the other Imperial Scions at the time.”

“You killed him!?” Zenith was rather shocked at her blunt admission. She knew that Paige escaped from the Imperial Family, but she hadn’t known she had killed other Scions outright.

“Where do you think I got the extra wardstones from? I took it off their corpses.”

“Back up Paige, you need to start from the beginning.”

“…Barring Zenith; what do the two of you know about the reputation of Imperial Scions?” Paige glanced over at Nick and Tyler. Well, even their ages weren’t that old, so maybe even they didn’t know the buried stories of Imperial Scions.

Nick grunted in reply. “In a word, Heroes. A single Scion is said to be a match to most High Class Parties.”

“Reputation matters to them, and they are the protectors of the Empire,” Tyler responded. “And they are always on the lookout for Princesses.”

“Yeah, well that’s more because the Imperial Family wants more heroes.”

“And that matters because…” Zenith asked quietly.

“Look, the crux of the matter is that Imperial Scions didn’t exactly have the sterling reputation they had when you guys were growing up.”

“Sterling reputation? That’s hardly the right words to describe them. Powerful yes, sterling; not quite.”

“Okay. Maybe it’s time for a lesson in Imperial Politics.” 

“So, everyone knows why Imperial Scions want Princesses. Princesses gain more power within the Empire the more their children excel. That in turn also impacts how many resources the Scions themselves gain. They have sex, give birth to Heroes, who in turn fight to become recognized as Scions themselves and the cycle continues. The more Scions the Empire as a whole means we can withstand foreign threats far easier.

It’s sort of a generational thing. So you could say that the more influential a Scion is, the higher their position is within the Empire. But that’s not how things originally happened before you were all born. No, Scions had a much, much worse reputation.”

Zenith scooted in, enraptured with the story, no, with the inside look at the Imperial Family. She could tell Paige really, really did not want to talk about it, since her hands hadn’t stopped being clenched since she started talking.  

“Scions were protected by the might of the Empire at large, which is why most people are hesitant to cross them. So you can imagine that a few started to become more arrogant as time went on. Arrogant, self-centered bastards. Not all of them of course, but a few bad apples can ruin the whole as they say. And to these Scions, the Empire was just a toybox. Their own personal toybox to take, build or destroy at their heart’s content.”

Zenith shook her head. “Paige, that doesn’t make sense. That’s almost the opposite of what any ruler would do in their country. Can you imagine if a Crown Prince acted that way? Public opinion can sway many things, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Crown Prince was assassinated for his behavior. Why would the Emperor allow it?” 

“The Emperor had no qualms about it, as he was focused on the bigger picture. So long as the Scions did their duty as expected, he would let them vent their frustrations on a few people rather than risk the safety of the borders.”

But to her surprise, it was actually Tyler who spoke up in Paige’s defense. “Zenith, your assumption is based soley on the fact that the Empire would not be able to squash any rebellion outright. But they can, especially if the Imperial Mages have an advantage.” He turned to Paige, who nodded her head. “Is that how you changed the perception around Imperial Scions? Through selective culls?”

“Yeah. Or rather, I should say I killed the morally corrupt ones who came after me. They stopped coming in force after I killed a hundred or so over the course of… one, maybe two hundred years? That got rid of the majority of problem Scions. The rest came in smaller groups spread out over the next seven hundred years. Anyway, Maxwell was one of the former groups. He and his party were able to track me to a rather highly-populated mountain range, something I was unaware of at the time. Maxwell ordered the entire mountain range to be razed to the ground. There were no survivors in any of the twelve mountain villages. 

Anyway, I faced wholesale slaughters, razes, abductions, threats while I was escaping. And that was before the Empire was almost plunged into a civil war due to me releasing the Imperial families magic research. The Emperor was forced to reign in all of the Scion behaviors after the other countries started gaining more power. After that, they started targeting just me since other countries now had a way to defend their respective citizens.”

 “There are problems with your explanation, Paige.” Nick looked up, his gaze piercing. “But I’ll focus on the one major one. What is the real reason for so many Scions? Why the need for Heroes?”

“…” Paige was quiet. “I told you that once you can reach my level, I’d let you know. That is still true.”

“I agree with Nick, Paige. Give us a reason why. Our ignorance already almost cost the lives of Lily and Tyler. I won’t let that happen again with us.”

“… let me just say the loss of the gods are a big deal, Zenith. A very big deal, in fact. There is a reason why almost every Hero is Blessed.”

“So, anyway; Zenith, Tyler said you threatened the Imperial Scion by proxy. Does that mean your wardstone was seen?”

Zenith bit her lip. The look in Paige’s eyes were warning everyone to drop the previous conversation. It was food for thought, but Paige was opening up to them, slowly. 

“It was my mistake, Paige. I jumped back to dodge a blow and the necklace slipped loose. I tried to be arrogant and ordered the Imperial Scion to not interfere. Will that be a problem?”

“Do they know where we are?”

“Mhmm. Alcudian scouts were able to find us in the town, so chances are they can find us here.”

“Good. It’s no problem then. Even Maxwell would hesitate to visit us if he knows we’ve been here for four years. That’s a lot of time to prepare for unwanted guests.”

“And if he does? Or he threatens the town? You already said he wasn’t shy of killing innocent people in pursuit of a goal.”

“Then we go and kill him. Look, in less than two years Nick or I will be able to leave, and if the trend continues then one more year after that I will be able to leave. Even I would hesitate to execute a plan to kill a Scion in an established base within three years.

And if Tyler is right about the country, he’s going to have his hands full defending the defensive lines while the castles are being rebuilt. Neglecting the castles is the same as neglecting the security of the Empire. Even if he wanted to, he’s not going to have time to spend on us. Even messing with the Healer Hall is treading a dangerous line for him. He probably will back off if he knows there are other Scions waiting for him to mess up.”

“So in essence; he’s smart, not suicidal.”

Tyler nodded. “We can work with that Paige. And if his Party or other Servants come?”

“We kill them as a warning. Even without my Class, I know I could still kill a Servant without my Class. If I could do it as an Apprentice Warrior, I most certainly can do it now as a Farmer.”

“Paige, that’s a terrible plan. And I need to have a word with you about creating a Formal Party for Lily and Tyler. What in the world were you thinking!?”

“I uh, wasn’t, to be perfectly honest. Lily requested I help her create a Party for the two of them, so I did.”

“And the reason you chose to do a formal party was…”

“…I’m old fashioned? Formal Party or bust. And it’s a relatively new thing to me, creating parties specifically with the intention of it being temporary. That’s only within the last couple hundred years that that is even acceptable in society.” 

“So that was the reason why you never joined Rebecca’s party?”

“Mhmm. Well, and that I would have to say my Class out loud. Without an [Oath of Silence], I would have to flee almost immediately to escape tracking.”

“You used your real name in Alcudia though?”

“Yeah, well by that time I saved so many people that people started naming their daughters Paige Alduit. I could relax just a bit, so long as my cover was solid.”

“So that’s how you were able to pass your history off as the real thing. You practically had doubles.” Zenith exclaimed bitterly.

“Mhmm, and there was enough that I just kept track of their ages and chose one at random that would match my expected age. I moved the other out to Appealte with enough money to start a business, and with her real parents naturally dead, her friends and relatives had no real way short of actually seeing me to confirm wether I was her or not.” 

“Tch. I thought you had used magic. Nick said a disguise, and Tyler said paid informants. I guess you won that bet Nick.”

“Our future plans. We need to decide that now.” Tyler stood up, looking outside to where Markus would be. “I say let’s stay low and train. All of us actually train for battle. Paige, I know you have a hard time acting like a Warrior, but please try to get your strength back. Battles may be unavoidable long term, and having a True Warrior would help us immensely. Same for you Nick, Zenith.”

“Fair enough, Tyler. I’ll… try my hardest and keep up with training. And we’ll still train Markus, though as a Swordmaster instead of an Apprentice. Nick, try to keep your Ranger combat skills down to a minimum around him. It’s not very common for a swordsman to use a bow, but if he knows archery skills in addition to his normal skills, it will raise some unwanted questions.”

“Paige, I’ll need your help fixing my relationship with Emilia and Kate. I don’t want to lose my friends.”

“Yeah. We’ll do something for them. Maybe we’ll invite them over? Or perhaps we’ll host a harvest feast sometime? I’m pretty sure I remember how to host one.”

“Rebecca kept that tradition going at least. I never stayed for the entirety of one, but I know they are still common.”

“Hm. Most Farmer’s know of the tradition, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that gained traction even without me here. And Cidala is the breadbasket for the country, so no doubt any Merchant would also know and spread word of it. After all, more parties mean more chances to sell their goods. Give people something to do in the winters, at least.”

“Well, there’s our plan, Tyler: Train; fix our relationships; continue to make money, and wait til we can leave this forest.”

Paige happily smiled. That was an easy enough plan. They’d have to decide later where to go when Markus finally got old enough to go to school, but by then they’d be able to go anywhere regardless.

And more importantly, they’d be able to go seek some answers.

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