Chapter 146: Speech and Statement
Virion, Rahdeas, the lances, and the two royal families all turned to me as I walked up towards the balcony edge. The applause rose to a deafening crescendo at my appearance as Virion waited for me at the very end.
While Bairon and Varay had calloused expressions on their faces as they let me through, Aya’s lips curled into a coy smile as she nodded approvingly.
Tess’s expression was still brusque from yesterday’s argument, while Kathyln’s eyes creased in a rare smile. Her brother, Curtis, waved while his parents and the rest of the central figures on the balcony joined the crowd’s applause.
As I stepped foot out into the balcony, the morning sun shone brightly overhead, covering the world below in a blanket of light. As my eyes adjusted, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sight.
The millions of people—humans, elves, and dwarves alike—gathered together, as if touching the horizon. Clustered tightly, hoping to just be inches closer to their continent’s leaders. An air of excitement, respect and jubilance could be felt all the way up here.
“What?” Virion smirked. “Never had a crowd of over a million people cheer for you?”
I shook my head with a helpless smile on my face, thinking to myself how many times I had in my past life. “Was this your idea?”
“Why? Are you angry?” Virion turned to the crowd, nudging me forward so the people below could get a better view of me.
“If it was anyone other than you? Yes.”
“Good. Now keep smiling and wave at them. They can see you on a wide-scale projection behind us.”
Taking a quick glance at the enormous projection behind me, I couldn’t help but think of Emily Watsken when she had disclosed to me in class that she was the one that designed this apparition. Looking back ahead, I raised an arm and waved to the mass, Sylvie following suit atop my shoulder.
The thundering cheers slowly softened to a buzz of excitement as everyone except Virion and I stepped back toward the back of the balcony. “Now. You wouldn’t happen to have a speech ready for the upcoming war, right?”
“You’re kidding me, right?” I struggled to maintain a calm smile.
“I want you to be the one presenting the announcement,” Virion said, his voice unwavering as he handed me the voice amplifying artifact he had clipped onto his collar.
“Virion. I can’t.” My voice faltered as the people below waited excitedly for someone to speak. “I haven’t even prepared myself to accept this position as a lance let alone give a speech as one.”
“I didn’t want you to prepare. These are your people, Arthur. You grew up amongst them and they’ll listen to you with much more sincerity and empathy than if some spoonfed noble spoke.”
“That’s only if I deliver a well thought-out speech,” I argued as I turned to shake Virion’s hand as an excuse to prolong the inevitable.
“I trust you. Just speak from your heart.” Virion stepped back as the trickle of cheers silenced into an anxious rest.
While even the closest people in the mass were no larger than the nail of my thumb from where I was standing, I was still able to find my parents amongst them with my sister riding atop Boo’s large shoulder.
The apprehension that came with unpreparedness dwindled as I locked eyes with my mother. Even with augmented vision, I was barely able to make out the gentle smile on her face, but that was enough.
I knew what to say.
Letting out a deep breath, I stood at the edge of the castle balcony and turned on the voice amplifying artifact.
A loud buzz resounded, telling me that the artifact was now on. I took another step forward so I was leaning forward on the balcony rail, waiting patiently for the last of the cheers to subside.
“Despite my age, I’ve read countless books on this continent’s history and economy. Yet, in none of those books does it explain what makes their citizens love their country. Some historians have speculated that it’s because they were born there that they have a natural inclination toward their homeland. One author by the name of Jespik Lempter argued that there is an intricate trickledown effect that starts from the leaders being able to provide for their people, down to parents being able to feed their children. He stated that as long as that flow of security in livelihood is kept, natural loyalty to their providing country is kept.
“I tell you this because I disagree with both claims. I believe that loyalty isn’t a calculated maneuver by the citizens and neither is it so singular that lives can be risked based on the area someone was born in. I think it’s rather presumptuous to even try to find a single, all-encompassing formula for loyalty.
“But one thing is certain: loyalty is always easier when times are easy. It’s easy to cheer for your king when your children are well-fed and your land is prosperous. It’s easy to rally behind an army when you know it’s going to win. But this isn’t like those times. Through this war, your loyalty to this country—to this entire continent—will be tested, because there will be times when you’ll be faced with a choice between dying with your people, or hoping to live with your enemies.” The air amongst the crowd darkened as my voice fell into a whisper, but I continued.
“The fact that I’m up here right now speaks for the choice that I’m going to make when that time comes for me, but it isn’t because of my title as a lance. My loyalty wasn’t bought, nor was it freely given. My loyalty to this continent and to everyone in it was nurtured from my childhood in the countryside, then as an adventurer, then a student, then a teacher, and now, it’ll be proven as a lance.
“Sure, this continent and its leaders have their flaws, but what no one can say is that they haven’t tried. The joining of the three kingdoms to form the Council would’ve been unheard of a few generations ago, yet the leaders of the three races put aside their pride and differences to unite and share the resources amongst one another to better this continent and those that live in it. While discrimination may still exist, this land we live in belongs to all of us, and just beyond this city is an army aboard over a hundred ships approaching our shores. We’ve been given an option to either give up the lives of all the royal families that have served this continent in exchange for taking our land without a fight or to presume with this war on a greater, much more devastating scale.
“Commander Virion was ready to give up his own life to protect this continent—to protect you—but I said it wasn’t his call since this doesn’t only affect his and his family’s lives, but everyone’s lives here.”
I turned around and motioned for Virion and everyone else to come forward. “I would rather fight and risk dying for the life I’ve come to love here rather than betray my brethren in hopes of a promise that our enemies—enemies that have already separated families—may or may not keep.
But I dare not speak for everyone in this continent. The only thing I can say with full confidence is that, if given the chance, every one of us up here will fight to our last breaths to protect this continent from the likes of those who dare invade us.”
It was utter quiet for what seemed like hours until a single voice broke the silence.
“Long live Dicathen.”
That single proclamation set off an eruption. As if the crowd of over a million people had choreographed their cheer, a thundering chant resounded, shaking the ground and very castle we were in.
“Long live Dicathen. Long live Dicathen. Long live Dicathen.”
I turned off the voice amplifying artifact and let out a deep breath of relief when Sylvie hopped off my shoulder.
As the cheer grew to its climax, my bond transformed from her pearly fox form into that of an almighty dragon.
It was when she spread out her wings that I was shown once again how much she had grown over the years. Her wingspan surpassed the width of the balcony as gales blasted down at the crowd with each beat of her black wings.
While I was startled that she would reveal herself now without giving me any notice, I played along and unsheathed the giant sword on my back and held it high in the air, just as my bond faced the sky and let loose a thunderous roar that shook the very air around us, instilling fear and awe to the people gathered below us.
Although Sylvie’s meddling immediately disrupted the crowd’s chanting, an even louder cheer erupted at our powerful display
I turned back around to see wide eyes at the turn of events.
“I thought you didn’t have anything prepared,” Virion said with a raised brow.
I shrugged in response as Sylvie shrank back to her pup form and hopped onto my shoulder. “I didn’t.”
‘I did good, right?’ Sylvie chirped in my mind.
‘You got the message across, show-off,’ I replied, tousling the fur on my bond’s little head.
Curtis came up to me, beaming in excitement. “That last bit was terrific. I mean, I heard that Sylvie was a dragon from the students that were there at school when we were attacked but…”
The prince let out a wistful sigh as he shifted glances between Sylvie and me before stepping forward to wave at the captivated mass roaring our names.
After several minutes of receiving the crowd’s cheers, we slowly retreated back into the castle. As I walked back, I couldn’t help but notice Tess stride off, heading back toward the teleportation gate we had come from without a word to any of us.
“I take it that Tessia is still mad at me?” I asked Virion, who was walking alongside me.
“Mad, frustrated, annoyed, offended—I’m not sure which, but I do know that whatever she’s feeling towards you isn’t good,” he chuckled. “Now, I’m sure you you have some things to take care of with your family, but I need you back at the castle as soon as you’re done.”
“I’ll be back at the castle as soon as I send my parents off, but I’m still not sure whether it’d be best to keep my sister in the castle or have her go with my parents,” I said.
“There are quite a lot of children and mothers that are going to be in the castle. Some of them are even teachers at magic academies, so it might be beneficial for her to stay there, but that’s only if she’s okay with being separated from you and your parents,” he noted.
“Yeah, you have a point. I’ll try to convince her.”
Virion nodded as he dug into the inside pocket of his robe. “There’s one last thing that you need to think about.”
He pulled his hand out and opened it in front of me to reveal a black coin the size of his palm. The coin glimmered at the slightest movement, drawing my attention to the complex engravings that were etched all over it. “This is one of the artifacts that were handed down to me. I had given this and the other artifact to my son when I resigned from the throne, but after Alea’s death, he gave this back to me, saying I should choose the next lance.”
I stood there silently for a moment, mesmerized by the oval coin that seemed to pulse in Virion’s hand. “So this is the artifact that Alea had?”
“Yes. Bonding it with your blood and mine will trigger it, giving you the boost that allowed all the other lances to break into the white stage. I know you’re not an elf, but I’d be honored if you’d serve as a lance under me.”
My hands twitched, tempted to accept his gift that would give me a better chance to fight the Four Scythes and their retainers.
Letting out a sigh, I shook my head. “I’ll fight for you even without this bond, but I can’t take this. I may regret it, but it doesn’t feel right for me to cheat my way into the white stage. I’ll get there on my own.”
“Good choice,” the familiar, hoarse voice of a certain asura chimed in from behind me.
I looked back over my shoulder to see the purple-eyed asura walk over, his arms behind his back.
“Lord Aldir,” Virion bowed curtly, his palm still open for the asura to see.
Aldir lifted the coin from his hand and studied it with a downward glance. “While this artifact may give you a tremendous boost in strength, it greatly inhibits the potential to grow further.”
The asura tossed the coin back to Virion as he continued speaking. “Normally, I’d recommend that any lessers take the opportunity to use this, especially in these dangerous times, but Arthur, you’re a different case. Your talent aside, in you Lady Sylvie’s dragon blood courses through your veins, and the powerful will of her mother inside your mana core. It may serve as a risk during the war, but I’d suggest you don’t take it.”
“Thank you for the heads up,” I replied. Taking a look around, I noticed that, while Blaine and Priscilla Glayder remained here, Curtis and Kathyln, along with Tess and her parents were gone.
“Are you heading back to the castle right now as well?” I asked Virion.
Virion nodded solemnly. “There’s much to prepare for. Blaine and Priscilla will help prepare this city with the help of their lances in the meantime. We won’t know where exactly they’ll land or how spread out they’re going to be, but it’s vital that we protect this city. Fortunately, the ships are still a few days away.”
“I understand. I’ll meet you back as soon as I’ve taken care of everything here.”
As Virion and Aldir prepared to go through the teleportation gate, the white-haired asura turned back, matching my gaze with his single, purple eye. “Arthur, are you ready for this war?”
My lips curled up into smirk as I let out a chuckle. “No, but I don’t plan on losing to those damn Vritras.”
Aldir smiled in return and turned back around. “Good. That’s what I like to hear.”