Crossover Fan Fiction ❯ Stares ❯ Palace Intrigue ( Chapter 3 )

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I finally had the time and opportunity to talk to Mother about her past.

“I am the daughter of a Sword King, but I am an untalented student. I disappointed him. Your father is a very talented swordsman, and his arrogance comes from that and being the eldest son in his family. He disowned his family rather than comply with their preferred infighting for dominance, but during his travels he came to our school. When Paul showed up to learn from Father, he quickly mastered everything Father had to teach. And Paul is arrogant. When he got frustrated at the students complaining about his skill he came to my bed chambers, ravished me and left the following morning.”

“How did you feel?” I asked her. She was cuddling me, even if I’m a bit big for this now. This was about her comfort.

“I deserved it. I wasn’t complaining. I wish he hadn’t left. I hunted him down a few years later, but that was years later. First I left the family training hall behind and ended up a maid at the palace in Ars. My charge was a princess, younger than you. At a party, a number of nobles were present, many of them enemies. Some of them sent assassins in to murder the princess and I took a poisoned dagger meant for her. In return, the nobles threw me away with the clothes on my back and little more. The poison crippled my muscles. I could no longer leap or stomp, which are both crucial in swordsmanship. Since I couldn’t fight I was useless to the royals and fired without so much as a thank you for your service. I’m rebuilding myself thanks to Zanoba’s detox potion. After that I tracked down your father and found him married in a quiet village. A good place to hide from royal assassins and try to recover. Zenith’s detox magic was unable to cure me, so I worked as a maid. She was pregnant with Rudy at the time so the timing was good, and would need me. I am somewhat ashamed of seducing Paul, because I betrayed Zenith, but he did steal my first time, and its not like I’ve ever been with anyone else.”

So that was dark. Mother is kind of messed up. A change of topic may be a good idea now.

“Rudy never cried as a baby. He scared me, right up until he spoke up for me when I told Zenith I was pregnant. You and Tanya cried like normal babies, at least, but sometimes I wonder if maybe you’re too smart. Tanya can FLY, something even Rudy can’t do.”

“Tanya was flying when we were babies. She could fly before we could walk,” I admitted.

“Truly?” Mother asked me, smoothing my hair back from my forehead, including my ahoge.

“Yes. She lived before. Twice. And Mother, I had a life before this one too. I think Rudy might as well.” Lillia winced at this news, and hugged me tightly.

“There are tales of such people, but no one takes them seriously,” she said, holding back tears.

“You are no less my mother,” I told her, hugging her back. “Even if this world is strange.”

Mother cried for a while so I just held her as best as I could. She eventually recovered her usual blank expression, her personal armor against hope or despair. I think my mother is a hard shell over a soft interior, and she is thus fragile. I wonder how I can protect her as a small boy like I am?

During these weeks I found a mirror and learned my eyes are green, and my hair color is the same as mothers, not exactly red but more of a reddish violet color. Odd, but not bad.

After a couple weeks of recovery mother was in sufficient health to begin retraining in the sword. She would still do her cleaning duties, then practice swings for hours. I joined her, to build my little boy muscles. I suspect I’d be at this for years.

There is no way a little kid can fight like an adult. Rudy might get away with that. Tanya might have a working rifle the next time I see her. Me? I’m just a kid. Mother says I’m developing touki, a sort of use of mana to enhance physical ability and resist damage, like a weaker version of Prince Zanoba. Good swordsmen have this skill.

“Mother, would you be able to train me in the sword? I can’t do magic like Tanya or Rudy. I can feel the mana under my skin. I can harden it. I need training to develop that better.”

“Maybe when you’re bigger. Work on your strength and endurance. The best you can do is hide from enemies, dodge their attacks. You won’t be able to swing a sword hard enough to actually hurt a swordsman and I don’t want you to die thinking you’ll make a difference in a real fight. You aren’t your brother. I think nobody is like Rudy.”

Dreams may betray you, but hard work does not. I miss my sensei and her terrible habits. I miss my arguments with Yukino and the relentless flirtation of Haruno, and Yuigahama’s terrible cooking. She meant well. They all meant well, but I’ll never see them again.

I trained my stealth frequently, to the point that my touki was starting to absorb light. I could see, but I sank into the background, sort of. Especially if I stood in shadows. My climbing ability grew as I did, with touki enabling some fairly serious acrobatics and strength moves my muscles could not do on their own.

It was during one of these explorations that I found a cache of abandoned musical instruments hidden in an attic space only a small climber could have found, so their presence was very odd. There was a flute. A small hand drum. A fiddle with a bow, and a mandolin, which is like a lute but holds its tune better. Couldn’t carry all of them at once and opted to try the flute, blowing lots of dust out. The stringed instruments were lacking intact strings, since most strings were actually cat gut, twisted and dried. Could be worse. There was an instrument from Japan called the shamisen which contained the organs and bones from four different animals, as well as exotic woods, and cost a fortune to make properly. Cat gut strings for instruments should be both cheap and commonly available in the city.

As Prince Zanoba’s attendants, we were excluded from Pax’s attempts to corral or kidnap us, since Zanoba would hurt him for trying. The fact that Pax continued his demented games over his servants and guards was distressing, though I think I’m somewhat used to this nonsense.

I also worked on silent casting using the method I’d learned listening to Sylphy explain it to Tanya a year ago, before the disaster. Cast the spell with the chant. Feel the magic flow. Memorize the feeling. Duplicate the feeling of the mana without the chant, by pushing your mana forth. I was trying this with the fireball spell. Eventually I got a fireball with the chant and repeated this until I could memorize the feeling. The more times I did this the more the fire changed, turning orange, then grey, then darker grey, then black. When I tried to duplicate this without the chant, the flames were black instead of the usual yellow. When I cast this spell on some firewood in out on the palace grounds the wood burned with black flames which seemed to absorb light rather than make it. My sister Tanya is going to laugh at me.

I’ve mastered Dark Flame. I’m the Dark Flame Master.

Sigh. So edgelord.

Thus armed with Dark Flame and shadow touki and a poignard (double edged very pointy dagger) I went into the city in search of a music store or stall in the marketplace. I eventually found one and bought appropriate strings for both the fiddle and mandolin for three copper pieces. I was probably overcharged, but cleaning and stringing the instruments in our chambers meant I could begin tuning them and learning to make music from my old life.

Naturally, my first song played was Creep by Radiohead. It was an old song, older than me in my prior life, but was great because it had some key changes, took to various instruments, and required me to sing across several octaves, from low to high. Also, Pax liked the song, of all things. It was easier to sing when playing the drum and mandolin, but the fiddle captured the song better. It was quite interesting to use my shadow touki to climb into the rafters of the palace and play the fiddle because it would startle the servants and guards until they realized it was just me.

During one of my climbing explorations I found a second hidey hole with a small crossbow with black darts. I started to learn how to shoot it out of curiosity and discovered I am actually better with predicting targets and ballistics on the fly, instinctively, compared to a sword. I demonstrated this to mother. She observed, nodding at last.

“A short bow and poisoned arrows might be better yet. In a fight you won’t have time to reload a crossbow. This weapon is probably from an assassin in the palace. It was dusty? Then he’s long gone. See about getting a bow about this big,” she suggested, holding her hands apart about shoulder width. “There should be a book in the royal library with construction techniques if you have to build it yourself. You’ll want waterproof glue, and the correct materials, and lacquer to coat it. There should also be a book on alchemy with poisons and antidotes.”

“I will be sure to make antidotes first. Poisons without antidotes are just asking for trouble,” I confirmed.

It was another exploration which found the corpse of the assassin. They were small, but the bones were thicker. Probably a Hobbit then. They were in their armor and had been there for years at least. I eventually decided to bring the palace guard in to show them what I’d found. There was a contract letter with a seal that the guard captain, a serious woman, recognized.

“You’ve done well to bring this to me. I must inform his highness the king.” Many things happened after that, including the cessation of games by Pax against his servants, and their families were released. This tension was had been building for years, apparently, so the resolution by the authority of the king was a huge relief to everyone in the palace. Doing so quietly also prevented widespread scandal, though a good third of the guards and servants left the palace, not trusting the royal family after Pax was barely punished for his madness. Mother and I stayed. She was sure our family would find us here eventually.

I resolved to send a letter to our family in Buena Village. The mail would get through, right?