“Finally…! We are here… in Floria region…!” Darian said sleepily into the morning air.
It took them a few weeks to reach the Floria region. During the journey, they hardly stopped at all. The only times they stopped was during the nights. They went past several towns and villages without stopping.
Originally, he had intended to reach earlier, but it was not to be. This was because of the demand Marilia made in protest to his decision to ride in the night as well.
“Staying awake all night and driving! Are you insane?!” Marilia argued with Darian.
He tried to argue back, but she won the point when she said “The horses need rest! Do it for their sake as well, you impatient idiot!”
Sighing, Darian relented and it took longer them more than a month to reach the region.
The reason he was in a hurry was because of the increasing presence of darkness. Sevedant, the Death Titan, had informed them of the corruption of the Elemental Spirits. This creates a hassle since every living being interacts with them even if most are unaware of it.
The threat and the fact that Felix Phoron, the Phoenix Emperor is imprisoned for a false accusation. These caused Darian to reach their destination quickly.
It was early in the morning when they crossed the border into the Floria region. After that, they stopped a few times because the horses seem to be getting tired. During that time, Darian slept while everyone was awake and about.
“He’s sleeping like a baby right now,” Marilia muttered and she smoothly stroked the face of her sleeping husband.
“Really? I always thought he was a baby,” Rumble said and he sniggered.
There was a sudden his of steel being pulled out of its scabbard. The next thing Rumble knew was that Darian’s hand was holding the sword which was close to his neck. It looked like Darian was still asleep, but he held his sword firmly near Rumble’s neck.
“I was joking…! Seriously! It was just a joke!” Rumble said hastily.
Darian muttered a little and lowered the sword on the ground. Rumble sighed in relief and looked at his friend in annoyance.
“Damn his subconscious! He’s on guard, even when he sleeps!” Rumble said quietly.
“He better be since it’s you,” Wolfenstine said before laughing.
“What? You picking a fight with me? Hah?! You want to fight me that badly?!” Rumble said aggressively.
“Sure! We haven’t settled the old score yet!” Wolfenstine said cheerfully and he cracked his knuckles with a smile on his face.
As they glared at each other, Marilia sighed and looked towards each of them with a cold expression on her face.
“Move, Marilia. I need to beat that guy down!” Rumble said and he cracked his neck side to side.
“That’s right! It’s time to settle the score!” Wolfenstine said and he glared fiercely at Rumble.
“Sure, but there will be no breakfast, lunch or dinner for you guys!” Marilia said cheerfully.
“Huh?!” Rumble and Wolfenstine said in shocked voices.
As Marilia walked back to the others, they quickly raced after her. Watching Rumble and Wolfenstine apologising to her made Lakshman laugh happily. The scene somehow reminded him of his mother and father and it suddenly made him feel lonely.
“What’s the matter, master?” Ondine asked curiously when she saw that he was looking sad.
“Just… feeling a bit lonely without mum and dad,” Lakshman said in a sad voice.
Ondine and Tetra looked at him and then at each other. They nodded at each other and got to their feet. The next thing Lakshman knew, the two of them sat down next to him and hugged him.
“Eh? Eh? Ondine? Tetra? What are you doing?” he asked them in a surprised voice.
“Master said he is feeling lonely. So we’re here to tell you he’s not!” Tetra said firmly.
“That’s right, master. We are here for you. So you are never alone!” Ondine said happily.
“Um… Thanks, girls,” Lakshman said appreciatively and he wiped his eyes.
Sevedant, watching the girls hugging Lakshman softly muttered “Family… Interesting…”
A few hours later, Darian woke up. Hearing what transpired between Rumble and Wolfenstine made him so mad, he beat the two of them with his flat side of his sword on their heads.
“Don’t you think hitting them on the heads will give them some sort of shock?” Lakshman asked curiously.
“For these stubborn idiots, hitting them on the heads is only the beginning!” Darian said in a voice full of annoyance.
After apologising to them, both Rumble and Wolfenstine became quiet. Wanting to do something to make up for his mistake, Rumble took hold of the horse reins. Then he got the horses moving and they pulled the carriage along.
Along the way, they passed a few villages. Everyone here were looked at them apprehensively and stayed away. Lakshman looked at the villagers and realised they were wearing clothes very different to them and Marilia. They were wearing full robes with patterns on their clothing.
A few hours later, Rumble brought the horses to a slow trot. It seemed they were reaching the capital of the region. Just then, Darian turned around and looked at them with a serious expression on his face.
“Remember, Lakshman and this also goes to everyone else. Keep a low profile since we’re here on an official visit for the Trial of Betrayal. Okay?” he said seriously and they nodded at him.
Just then, Sevedant said “Stop. I will leave.”
“Wait, what?! What are you talking about, Sevedant? You’re going to leave?” Lakshman asked as if he could not believe his words.
Sevedant nodded and said “Much better. I will cause trouble. Leaving is good. Will meet later.”
Wolfenstine laughed and said “I see. It makes sense. I think the people will make a fuss when they feel his presence amongst us. Heck, they might even be hostile towards us!”
“Fine! Then we’ll see you later then!” Darian said and Sevedant nodded back.
Rumble brought the horses to a stop and Sevedant got out. Then, in a flash of black light, he disappeared and they no longer felt his presence. Darian turned around and Rumble got the horses moving again.
The carriage moved along and they saw a gate blocking the road. Standing on either side of the gate were ten guards with spears in their hands. They also wore full armour and seemed ready to battle in case there was trouble.
As the carriage got closer, one guards stepped forward and raised his hand into the air. Then they heard him shout “Halt!”
Rumble brought the carriage to a stop and the guards moved forward to inspect the carriage. Earlier, Tetra changed into the Phoenix Blade and Lakshman sheathed it into the scabbard tied to his waist.
“Identify yourself and state your business!” The guard near them asked in a loud voice.
“Loud…” Ondine muttered irritably and Lakshman smiled at her.
“I am the Sword King, Darian Ronald, and my partner is the Monkey King. Within the carriage are our companions. We have departed from Rodfox region and it took us more than a month to get here,” Darian said clearly and confidently while sounding firm at the same time.
The guards then talked to each other and the spokesman turned around and nodded at them.
“Very well. You are recognised as the Sword King, but we need to identify the Monkey King. State your name!” The guard demanded as he moved over to speak with Rumble.
It was a bad move to speak in such a tone because Rumble suddenly got angry. The next moment, he grabbed the man by the collar and lifted him into the air.
“Show some respect when you are talking to me, the Monkey King!” Rumble said fiercely.
As the guard spluttered while hanging up dangerously, the other guards prepared their spears for battle.
Darian sighed and said “Drop him…!”
Rumble nodded and let the guard down. Then he snorted and said “I identify myself as, Hunaman Monkaggy, the Monkey King!”
Lakshman was amazed to hear Rumble say a different name. Then he realised the names ‘Rumble’ and ‘Mumble’ were just names he gave himself. He suddenly felt stupid for thinking that was his actual name.
The guards came together and seemed to be talking about something. Then they nodded at each other and broke away. The same spokesman approached them and said “We identify you as the Sword King and Monkey King! Now state your business!”
Darian cleared his throat and said “We have come to pledge an appeal against the Trial of Betrayal placed upon Felix Phoron, the Phoenix Emperor.”
At those words, the atmosphere suddenly changed. The guards became cold and had angry expressions on their faces. Lakshman was alarmed by how cold the air suddenly became around them.
“I see. You’ve come to appeal against the Phoenix Emperor’s charges. Unfortunately, that is not possible,” a guard said to Darian.
Darian furrowed his eyebrows and asked “Why?”
“Haven’t you heard? The Phoenix Emperor has escaped. He committed jailbreak and is now on the run.”
There was a moment of silence. Then everyone suddenly shouted “Huh?!”
The guard nodded and said “He was locked in the highest prison cell. Then his supporters forcibly set him free. Now he and his family are on the run from the Phoenix Clan!”
There was a shocked silence within the carriage. None of them could believe what they just heard. Lakshman remembered Felix as someone who was laughing, easy going and a little bit cheeky, but always happy. He could not believe such a man would escape from prison.
The guards talked to each other and activated their magic. It caused gates to split in the centre and move to either side of the road. The guard saluted at Darian and let them pass. With that signal, Rumble got the horses to move through the gates. As they left, the gates closed behind them with a mundane thud.