“I don’t understand.” Cobal’s mind was racing but he couldn’t understand what he had just heard. “You don’t mean they killed him themselves right? Did he get sent out on a mission he didn’t survive, did he get poisoned or something?”
Mana shook her head. “When I was sent to this world, I learned two things. I kept this from you for obvious reasons, and I do apologize for that, but it was for my own safety.” She set her elbows down on the table and interlocked her fingers. “When I was transported to this world, there was a voice that spoke to me. It was the voice of a woman, coming from a strange shadowy figure. This person told me that I would be able to learn a way of magic not yet discovered in this world. The second thing she told me was that I should be wary of the Blueyerd Royal family as they were the ones responsible for the death of the previous hero they had summoned.” She looked at Dionil who nodded.
“I can confirm that this is true.”
“But how and why? I’ve never heard anything about this,” Cobal countered.
Dionil scoffed. “Of course not. They murdered him in secret and were too cowardly to own up to it, lying to the people. Do you think they would admit to killing the country’s hero because they were scared of him? The people would riot in the street.”
Mana added. “I learned from Dionil that the last time he saw Might, the hero was already worried about tensions in the kingdom. Apparently there had been a few attempts on his life recently which wasn’t new, but it seemed like it was more organized. He was worried someone wanted him dead and suspected the king for a long time. There were even rumors floating around that the people thought Might should be the next king or serve in some role like that. With these growing tensions it seemed like the king decided to solve the problem discreetly.”
Dionil looked at might. “You really had no idea that any of this happened?”
Cobal shook his head. “I am struggling to believe it even now.” He looked at Dionil. “And you’re sure this is what happened?”
Dionil nodded. “I always assumed, since Might told me he left for the capital to talk things out, and with Mana’s confirmation it’s all but reality.” He clenched his fist. “Might was a good guy. He did everything he could to make Blueyerd a safe place for its inhabitants, and he was rewarded by a sword in the back. And it’s your family that’s responsible.”
Cobal stared at the table, still in shock. “Maybe something happened? Maybe something went wrong and the kingdom covered it up or something?”
“Face it, your family killed the one hero this kingdom had to save its own hide.” Dionil didn’t mince his words and there was venom in his tone.
“That’s enough Dionil, Cobal had nothing to do with this personally and you know it.”
Mana grabbed Cobal’s hand. “I didn’t want to talk to you about this initially because I didn’t trust you. After I started having a bit more faith in you, I didn’t want to dump this kind of information on you without being absolutely sure. That’s why I wanted to come here. The little bit of information I got about Might before I came here told me to go and find Arana at the shore of Ravadier. That’s how we eventually ended up here.”
“I’m sorry, I need a moment to clear my mind,” Cobal said, standing up and leaving the house.
Cobal thought about all the stories his father had told him about the hero. They were stories that were passed down through the royal family. The hero was the pride of the kingdom. He wondered if his father knew about this, or if only the royal family from back then was aware, and they completely covered it up. It made sense no one knew about it, a hundred years had passed since the last hero and Mana had taught him a thing or two about how history tends to work. When he heard footsteps after a while he looked up. Dionil came walking towards him with two cups. He handed one to Cobal. “You okay?”
Cobal sat up and accepted the cup filled with ale. “No, not really.”
Dionil sat down next to him. “I apologize for earlier, I shouldn’t have let my anger get the better of me.”
“It’s fine, I shouldn’t have tried to attack you either.”
“So you really had no idea what actually happened to Might?”
“Not at all. It’s like the phrase Mana taught me. History is written by the victors.”
Dionil smiled. “That’s painfully correct.” He drank most of his ale in one swig. “Might was a great guy. He was nervous when I first met him, and together we trained and trained and trained until he was the greatest hero to ever walk this continent. It took us many, many years, close to a decade even. And then after he pushed back the cultists deep into the Feral Wildlands, sank the pirate fleet off the coast of Ravadier and saved the people of Arana, ended the murderous gang in the capital and made a trade deal with the thieves guild this is how your kingdom repaid him.” He let out a deep sigh. “It’s not fair.”
“I grew up being told stories of this hero and how he saved our kingdom and then he just vanished. Now I question the motives of everyone I grew up around. Did they know? Some of them had to have known, right?”
Dionil shrugged. “I don’t know, but I don’t envy you right now.”
Cobal thought for a moment. “What was Might like? I know he was a hero and all that, but what kind of person was he?”
“I’d like to know a bit more about that too,” Mana said as she came walking up with Cassandra and Kimi in tow.”
Dionil sighed. “I suppose we can talk over dinner.” He looked around. “Where is Mirgia?”
“He left,” Cassandra said. “He said he had work to do and that we would be able to find the city again when we needed to, and if not we could ask you to bring us there.”
“One thing I want to know right now, if you don’t mind?” Mana asked.
“This place is named Oda’s clearing. Do you know what Might’s full name was back on earth?”
Dionil thought for a moment before shaking his head. “I don’t think he ever told me that. He just said he was part of the Oda family and took much pride in that name. He wasn’t a fan of being called Might initially, but eventually recognized that his earth name didn’t mean much here.”
Dionil looked at Mana. “If I may ask, what is your name?”
“Sounds very similar to Mana.” Cassandra remarked.
Mana nodded. “It’s a big reason why the new name hasn’t really bothered me. It sounded familiar enough for me to get used to it quickly, and I didn’t feel like revealing stuff about my past to strangers.” She looked at Cobal. “Sorry.”
He waved his hand through the air. “Don’t be, I now understand why you were hesitant around me. I don’t want you to feel bad about it. On the contrary, I am very happy you decided to trust me now.”
Mana smiled. “You’re a good guy Cobal, and what your family did a hundred years ago has nothing to do with the person you are today. I wouldn’t be surprised if no one in the kingdom is aware anymore, maybe except for a few people. I just don’t want to end up in a similar position to Might, that’s why my anxiety spiked when I’d first arrived here.” She looked at everyone around her. “To be honest, I’m still scared and I have trouble sleeping from time to time, but things do seem to be improving for me. And besides,” she pointed at the trees around them. “Who doesn’t feel better when they get to be in an environment like this?”
Kimi nodded. “It’s beautiful here.”
Dionil smiled and stood up. “Well, I’m glad you all like it. Now if you excuse me, I’ll go make us some food as it’ll start getting dark soon.” He looked at Cobal. “Can I count on you to get a fire going?”
The crackling flames lit up the clearing as the trees around them were shrouded in darkness. Light disappeared very quickly in these parts as the trees obfuscated the sunlight after the sun went lower in the sky. Fireflies flew around in the trees giving up tiny bits of light, but besides that it was pitch black outside of what the fire lit up. Dionil had prepared a meal consisting of deer and many different kinds of roasted vegetables. They sat around the fire eating and talking about Might.
“So when I first met Might he was a wreck. He missed his mother and his younger sister and he didn’t feel at ease at all in this strange world. As time passed he started getting more accustomed. He taught me his swordsmanship as I taught him the basics of magic and the history of our people. He wasn’t great at magic but any weapon he held he mastered in a few months at the most. He was probably the best fighter of his time, if not of all time.” Dionil laughed. “I don’t know how this hero summoning ritual works, but it is very good at finding the right person for the job.” He looked at Mana. “Do you know a little bit about how it works?”
Mana thought for a moment. “Not really. I remember coming home from work after a long day, and I think I dozed off on the couch watching television, and the next thing I saw was what I can only describe as an underwater starscape. That’s where I heard a voice that explained to me the things I shared earlier today. That I should be wary of the Blueyerd royal family and be careful. Then images of how to use magic flashed in front of my eyes for a little while, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground with a crowd of people staring at me.” She took another bite from her dinner before adding. “The strangest thing was that I was wearing completely different clothes. My phone, my jewelry and my piercings had all vanished, and my sweatpants were replaced by this blue dress I’m wearing right now.” She stared off in the distance, in the direction of the Feral Wildlands. “I’m willing to bet someone in that enormous, treacherous jungle knows how this magic works and if I ever get the strength to go there I want to learn everything about it.”
Dionil scratched his chin. “That’s an interesting coincidence, Might also had ambitions to go explore the Wildlands. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence or if there is more to it.”
Mana’s expression change didn’t go unnoticed by Cobal. Something resonated with her and a determination appeared in her eyes that Cobal hadn’t seen before. He couldn’t help but smile seeing her with a confident look on her face.
“Maybe when everything here is sorted I’ll go explore the Wildlands. But first I need to learn how to properly use magic.”
Dionil laughed. “You’re definitely in the right place for that.”
He looked at Cobal. “And I don’t mind teaching you some of mine and Might’s swordsmanship skills. See it as an apology for treating you poorly.”
“I would like that very much.” Cobal smiled. He felt a relief wash over him. The days spent worrying about where to go, what to do and why his companion was so distant were over. Now it was time to focus on the future and help Mana become the hero that the kingdom needed. Kimi and Cassandra seemed to be in good moods as well, eating and chatting with each other. Mana and Dionil were in a deep conversation and Cobal spent most of the time just listening. All in all, for a day that started with getting knocked out by magic it ended pretty good.