‘Wait, if I leave like this that means I lost doesn’t it?’
Cassel felt a twinge of regret but had no wish to turn around and go back.
He couldn’t win an argument against his father anyway. Though his father had lived his entire life as a farmer, never once did he lose in haggling with a veteran trader. He could probably even argue a wolf to go vegetarian. Even the neighborhood troublemaker, Luchi, knew well to steer clear of his father. Why, if anything went down, everyone came hurrying to his father even before they went to find the town chief. In fact, even the town chief himself would go looking for his father.
‘I guess I lost again. What should I do?’
‘A real man is defined by his actions and not his words. That loser Luchi pulled it off. Why can’t I do it too? I will be a knight.’
A knight that will bravely ride a horse into a battlefield swarming with tens of thousands of soldiers! Cassel always went to sleep each night with the image of himself as a knight playing in his head.
The first thing he always did was to seek out the mercenary ‘Cubra’ in his dream. He was a retired mercenary who roamed the countryside and was renowned for his swordsmanship.
There was a time, at a young twenty years of age, when he had secretly snuck off with his life’s savings to learn swordsmanship from this famous teacher. But after two months of training, the teacher had refused his third month’s tuition fee and told him this.
‘It seems you do not have any real talent with the sword. Do not come back again.’
He did go back several times but, not only did ‘Cubra’ turn him away, he even tattled to his father.
Afterwards, Cassel did meet again with ‘Cubra’ a few times and grew to become good friends whilst sharing a few drinks here and there. But the teacher never gave another sword lesson again. He thought maybe this time, since they were friends, ‘Cubra’ would at least introduce him to a recruiter, but he refused even that.
“Luchi is, hmm, should I call him knight Luchi now? Knight Luchi is extremely proficient in swordsmanship. In just one year he was able to match me blow for blow. Of course, a mercenary of my skill is pretty common out in the battlefield. Nonetheless, that kind of skill in a twenty-something year old is still quite impressive. That is why I figured he would make it out on the battlefield and went to the trouble of introducing him to someone I knew in the military. But you want me to introduce you? Dear Lord, I’d be run right out of town if I had any hand in helping send you off the war.”
Cubra tried his best to explain his situation and try to calm the fitful Cassel. Hell, it would have been better if the boy had asked to borrow a sack full of money instead!
“Is there any way I can go to war?”
“Don’t ask me something like that as if you’re simply asking the way to the market, and don’t look at me with those eager little eyes either.”
Cubra shook his head wearing a troubled expression.
“Is there a way or not?”
Cubra let out a long breath.
“Fine. Let’s just suppose I gave you a written recommendation to join the army of the Red Rose. The closest post is 100 miles away. How would you even get there?”
“Well, by foot I guess…”
“How many days do you think that would take you?”
At Cassel’s silence, Cubra sniffed as if saying a silent I-told-you-so.
“I can guarantee you this, within one day of leaving town, you will meet bandits at least three times. On top of that, you’ll be travelling alone. Exactly what kind of a fool are you? This town is one of the safest towns in all of Kamort. Other villages and towns live in constant worry due to war or bandits, but the only worry we have here is whether it will rain or not. Why don’t you just go on home and do some farming.”
Cassel had last left the house as if he would never again come back but, with nowhere else to go, he returned home. His father was in the middle of setting the dinner table for two.
“Returning so soon after winning a quick battle, sir Knight? Here, let us make a toast to your victory.”
His father spoke as his filled a wooden glass to the brim with wine. The true victor was his father, and Cassel could only drink from the bitter glass of defeat.
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