Author's note: This story is an apology to readers for me always redoing LR-5. As much as I hate admit it, the task is too much for me. So I need someone to help me write it. Pls send me a PM if you're interested in taking my request. My thanks in advance.
Also, I'm not good with rating things so if you think there's a mistake, pls point it out to me.
I will also continue one of my on-hold fics I haven't updated in a long time because I've been forgetting. Once I do, feel free to suggest stories for it.
A long time ago, there lived a kingdom filled with peace. Everyone was happy and content, and more so with the young prince's birthday coming. As the townspeople spent their time decorating the kingdom with flowers and lanterns of varying colors, they also steadily prepared lavish gifts to give to the young prince.
Everyone loved the young prince so none of them minded. He always visited the people when he had the chance to see how everyone was doing while looking for other children to play with him. Whenever the people were doing something, the young prince would always come over, wondering if he could be of use in any way.
Even though he was only seven years of age, he still wanted to be of help to them in whatever way he could. He was so polite and energetic and the people just loved him. Unfortunately, not everyone concurred.
You see, just a decade or so ago, the kingdom was not as peaceful as now. There was a ruthless warlord who demanded respect from the people rather than worked to earn it, preferably in the form of gold or silver coins, property, rare animals, and wine.
He always felt the need to have the best and he demanded it from everyone. Should it not be paid, then the person has not paid him properly for the protection he has provided for him and would simply lose his head.
And so, each day, the people paid him. And with each passing day, the amount grew and grew until the people barely had anything left to pay him.
So what did you think happened next?
Yes, no one was paying for their protection; their protection from him. Day in and day out and even pass the night, you could still hear someone having their life torn away from them and see the light of fire set unto their homes with people still inside.
If you were lucky enough to pay though, all your worries will be how you will be able obtain food for your starving family.
It wasn't long before everyone, even his own advisors, had had enough with this madness. They had to put an end to this before it got worse, and the man who led them was a mere farmer.
He rallied everyone quickly and everyone took arms. Everyone's sons and daughters and wives were already dead or close to that and so there was one thing all agreed upon; they had absolutely nothing to lose.
And so that night, during a party that the warlord threw, they stormed through the barricades, overpowered him and chased the man and his surviving family out.
When the dust settled and the people realized that they had won and the farmer gained everything the old warlord had and he knew just what to do it and gave most back. The rest was used to repair and fix all the previous warlord had ruined and after so many years of hard labor, everyone was finally happy.
Everyone that is but the old warlord. He was furious. He wanted the man who had bested him to pay for his actions and all that rage that he held was passed on to his son; the prince's guard.
"Hey!" The young prince called as he came running to him, as happy as ever. "Have you finished practice yet?"
"Yes, we just finished." The guard answered coldly.
"Good! Then we can play hide and seek!" The prince happily rejoiced. "I want to seek this time! You always find me!"
Little brat…, the guard thought in his head but quickly put up a fake smile and reasoned, "And you're not very good at finding me. If I let you seek, we'd be at it the entire day."
"Aw…" The prince sighed. "Okay, I hide and you seek me! I think I've gotten better so you won't find me!"
Yes. If only you could just find a hole to crawl into and stay there, the guard coldly snapped in his mind but nodded his head and watched the child run away to hide somewhere. Once he was gone, he frowned and swung his sword with a curse.
"Stuck babysitting the brat again, I see." Another guard appeared with a smug grin.
"Be quiet." The guard snapped. "At the count of ten, I'm supposed to go and find him."
"Then just leave him there then." The other guard chuckled. "Maybe he'll just stay there and wait there for you until he dies."
"Then the king will have my head." The guard grumbled.
"I don't see why that should be of a concern to you." The other guard said. "It's almost time after all. Are you ready?"
"Of course." The guard answered. "You just better not screw up your part."
"Hah. Like that's possible." The other guard laughed as he left. The guard just sighed and went off to look for the prince who was probably hiding in the bakery again. No matter. When the day was over, he'll have the kingdom. He went to the bakery and greeted the folks and went around looking for the prince. He checked the cupboards, and the closets, and then he checked the back room and saw the prince hiding behind a counter. The guard sighed as he hung his head at how predictable the prince was. He took a deep breath to ready himself into character, pretending to be having trouble looking for him.
"Prince? Where are you? Where did you hide?" The guard wondered out loud with some tiredness lacing his voice. He could hear the prince laughing playfully just behind the counter which tempted the guard to run and strangle the proud child, but he calmed himself quickly and snuck towards him and grabbed the prince from behind. "Got you!" He yelled, pretending t be happy and making the oblivious prince smile.
"You found me!" The prince laughed. The guard set the child down who was now a bit tired. "You're just too good at this! You have to teach me how to be that good, too!"
"Sure, when you're older." The guard lied, but the prince smiled and hugged the guard as he usually did everyday.
If you live that is...
"I love you so much!" It was something the prince told him everyday. Everyone knew how much the prince adored him. He looked up to him like he was his brother or something; but the guard shrugged that off as he always did. That was because of his own brother; his older brother who wasn't as lucky to escape the castle as he and his father.
He could care less about his father. The man wasn't exactly the greatest father in the world but his mother and brother were different. His memories of them were warm and always managed to put a smile and tear to his usually stone cold heart. Now they were gone and as a result, his life became living hell as his father heaped all his ideals of revenge on his back and he would never forgive the prince because of that.
Yes, this is his reason. Not for his ignorant father but for his loving mother and brother.
I will avenge you.
"Come on, you still have your studies to attend to." The guard said, holding the prince's hand to lead him away when the child pulled back.
"Wait, I have to get something!" The prince said before running over to the baker and whispering something into his ear. The man laughed and patted the prince's head before leaving. When he came back, he was carrying a large manju which he wrapped up in some paper and placed in a box before happily handing it to the prince, probably as a gift. The thought made the guard scoff when the prince came over to him.
The spoiled runt…if only you'd trip.
He didn't, to his disappointment, and the prince brought the cake up to him happily. "That's a nice looking cake." The guard complimented him. "Did you thank the baker for giving you the cake?"
"Hehe, yes!" The prince nodded.
The guard took no heed of it as he took the confectionery in one hand and the prince's hand in the other and headed to the castle to begin his plans.
Night finally drew in and the lanterns were lit everywhere. Everyone was singing and dancing and the guard felt sick. "Once the party is finished, everything will be ours." The other guard whispered to him.
"That's if everything goes accordingly." The guard mentioned before looking at the lord merrily drinking with his other loyal officials with fire in his eyes. The other guard said nothing and left to begin his preparations. Meanwhile, the guard left to attend to the prince for the final time, who was talking with his friends happily.
When this is over, I'll make sure you have nothing left…
But seeing the child so happy with his friends did make him feel a bit sorry for the prince. He was now in the same cruel situation as him just many years ago; surrounded by all his friends and loved ones as happy as he could be and in a few hours, it'll all be gone.
But he had to remind himself of the prince's sins. He was just as bad his father and he needed to pay for every bit of it as much as he did.
"Hey, come here!" The prince went up to him. "We're going to play hide and seek! Come and join us!"
"Sorry, but I'm still too tired from practice." The guard rejected with a fake tone of regret.
"Please! Come on, please!" The prince begged. The guard gave the child an annoyed look but smiled.
"All right, all right…" he finally conceded. Since he would die tonight, he would at least play with him for a while as a cruel parting gift.
"Yay!" The prince cheered before looking back at his friends with a nod. The other children giggled, too, as they through the door behind them. "Let's go and follow them!" The prince said before pushing the guard to another room in a hurry.
How bothersome… no, just a few more hours and I'll be rid of this demeaning work. Just be patient…
The guard sighed and raised his head to seek again but when he got in, he was surprised.
"Surprise!" The kids said with the prince happily jumping in front of the guard with a present in his hands outstretched towards him. "It's a birthday party for you!" The guard was now very surprised considering it wasn't even his birthday.
"My- I thought I told you I don't remember when my birthday is." The guard said. In reality, he clearly remembered when his birthday was. His parents were celebrating it the day of the attack. If he told anyone, his identity would without a doubt be unmasked and the plan would be ruined.
"I know! That's why I decided to make today your birthday!" The prince said. "That way, we can celebrate together! Aren't you glad?"
Glad to have my birthday sullied by having it mixed together with yours!? I-
Half way through his train of thought, the prince pushed him closer to his friends. "Come on! Let's play some games!" He said. The guard groaned as he was forced to play with the other small children. Still, this was all a surprise. Not even his father had bothered to try and celebrate the anniversary of his birth as he remained consumed by his thoughts of revenge. In a sense, this was his first time celebrating his birthday.
Over time, the games stopped and the prince brought him some cake which the guard quickly realized was the one given by the baker earlier. "Eat some!" The prince said, looking at him with bright, gleaming eyes.
The guard shrugged it off, sliced it and ate only a piece. He wasn't much of a sweets lover. The other children then proceeded to hand him his many presents: a bag, a coat, and a hat, all of which were simple and very crudely made with some holes and patches; evidence that the children had made it all themselves with much effort and difficulty.
The guard smiled out of pity for them and said his thanks. These children were merely commoners the prince had befriended and invited. They had nothing to do with vengeance so it was a sad thought for him that they would caught in the crossfire of this whole affair but they could blame their sad fates on the prince. They wouldn't be dead after all if the prince hadn't invited them.
Now only the prince was left but he didn't have his gift with him. He had to follow him to get his present. "It'll only take a couple of minutes! Dad and everyone won't even notice!" the prince said.
Naturally, he guard didn't want to go. Not when his plans were so close to fruition but the oblivious prince was as persistent as his father and finally the guard was forced to concede.
Only a few hours left…it'll only take a few minutes anyway. Then again, with this stupid child it could mean hours.
But the guard agreed and followed the prince as they sneaked off into the nearby woods, but he had to remember to return quickly to proceed with the plan. The other children said their goodbye as they stayed to make sure no adult would find them out.
And so they snuck out of the castle and into the streets paved with happy people drinking, and playing and talking. There was glee everywhere, a contrast to what the guard was used to. But tomorrow, the people would mourn over the lost of the warlord but that was alright. They could easily pick a new one and go on with their lives as merrily as today.
"Everyone's so happy!" the prince said happily as he wandered through the people. The guard wondered if he even remembered that they were here to get his present.
"But remember, we need to be back before your father notices we're gone." He reminded the child who suddenly pouted and turned red with embarrassment.
"O-of course! Let's hurry!" he said.
"You forgot didn't you?" he pointed out but the prince just pouted some more.
"No I did not!" he insisted.
What a brat. But the guard really wasn't much in position to tell him off. He remembered when he was young how his brother would tease him about being forgetful. He would say that he hadn't as a response but he had indeed forgotten. The guard looked around and saw two boys running happily chasing each other. The sight made smile. That was how they were too.
"Are you okay?" the prince suddenly went up to him and asked, startling the guard.
"Of course. Please don't startle me like that." He said but the prince still gave him a worried look.
"Are you sure?" the prince asked again the guard nodded.
"Yes. Now let's hurry before anyone notices." He said and the child smiled at him and grabbed his hand and began pulling him.
"Okay! Let's go then!" the prince encouraged and in a rare moment, the guard didn't think any ill of his actions. It simply brought back more memories from the past but he had to quickly put those feelings aside.
Remember the plan. Don't get soft now.
But as he was thinking that, the prince suddenly stopped and grinned. "We're here!" he said. "It's over there"
The guard wasn't listening though. The sheer sight of it appalled him as the prince pointed directly to the nearby forest that everyone knew spread out through the mountains where it was nothing but hundreds of thousands of acres of wooded forestry.
Just the thought of going in there nearly made him scream but with such a crowd around them celebrating, he couldn't risk making a scene.
"Prince, you said it would only take a few minutes." He said, resisting the urge to strangle the child who nodded proudly.
"Don't worry! We just have to go up the woods and run back. It'll be fine! And anyway, I left markers!" the prince said pointing directly to a tied cloth on a tree.
It was still easier said than done. Even the guard himself had trouble trekking through the thick woodlot. On the plus side, he could kill him there. No one would hear him scream but then again, he needed all the advantage he could to defeat a warlord. Just in case the old man manages to fight off him and his co-conspirers, they'd still have a chance to kill him if he waved his son at his face with knife on his neck.
The guard grumbled as he followed the prince up through the thorny thickets and craggy ground, unable to kill him for the value he held. After a long time, they finally reached a mountain and the prince smiled as he pointed to a hole no bigger than the prince himself.
"Through here! Your present's over there!" The prince said. The guard was too tired and angry to even respond.
How long had it been? And hour or two? And he had spent that time getting scratched up by thorns and dirtying and tearing his clothes through the unforgiving landscape until his feet were sore.
"Come on! Hurry up!" the prince said before going into the hole hunched down ever so lightly but the guard himself, almost an adult, was reduced to crawl through the hole.
Stupid…runt…once this…is over I swear-!
He was at the brink of losing his temper when he heard prince's voice just over away. "It's here! You have to see it!" he chirped excitedly.
"I'm coming!" The guard grumbled as he finally arrived to a larger opening leading to a huge cave and there the prince was, standing tiptoed against the cave's side with his face gleaming. The guard brushed off the dust and went over to his side in a huff.
"What is it anyway that… you…" In that moment, it seemed all of his anger was washed away. The prince was peering through a hole on the cave just big enough to act as a window. And through it, the guard saw a firsthand view of the forest from above.
Once the bane of his thoughts was now the beautiful thing he'd seen. The forest was still dark but under the delicate moonlight and the glistening stars, the forest looked like something from a fairytale and it gave off a mystic aura. And just beyond that was the town that glowed from the lanterns that hung about. You could still hear the people laughing softly. The sight was absolutely breathtaking.
"Isn't it pretty here?" The prince said while tugging at the guard's robe, snapping him out of his trance. "I found it while playing hide and seek with you before! I thought that it would be the perfect present for you so I decided to go and hide somewhere else so I could give it to you, well, today!"
The guard gave the prince a surprised glance and looked back at the scene. "So what do you think? Is it nice?" The prince asked happily.
"Um, yeah." The guard answered but still looking out at the moon.
The prince smiled happily at the guard. He was like a brother to him and always took care him. When found this place, he just wanted to give it to the guard. Anything to make him as happy as he was. He looked out again but at the corner of his eye, his heart skipped a beat.
"Guard, what's that?" the prince asked as he tugged the guard's robe again who was still in a trance. He looked off to where he pointed and everything came flooding back as he saw black clouds emerge from the town.
Smoke? No! Impossible! It's not even time, yet!
"We need to head back!" The guard said as he grabbed the startled prince but he nodded and willingly followed the guard. As they came closer to town, the guard became more and more agitated. Had he been double crossed?
As the sounds of terrified screams grew more and more, the site of the town when they arrived confirmed their fears; an uncontrollable fire had broken out. Worried and frightened by the fearful sounds, the prince let out a cry.
The flames were everywhere. Houses, buildings, trees…
The people were scrambling around at a loss through the winding roads as people ran in and out; some still stayed behind bravely to try and help put out the flames while others were just trying to escape while they still had their lives. The children and the elderly were too weak to run. Young infants and toddlers were wailing beside what appeared to be their mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers, and the old couldn't even stand as fleeing evacuees knocked them over, not even stopping to help except a kind few. The horrific scene was sickening for the both them.
No! This wasn't the plan at all! What is he thinking!?
Just as the guard began to panic, he managed to see the prince run pass him towards a building engulfed in fire with a crying infant inside in the hands of its mother who was lying either passed out or dead on the wooden floor.
The guard was snapped out of his thoughts when he noticed something else; the house's beams, weakened by the flames, were now collapsing. Without even thinking, just before the prince could enter, the guard's arm reached out by itself and he grabbed the child with a harsh pull backwards. He caught the prince as he stumbled back and they watched in horror as the house crumbled down like unstable boulders, crushing all below with a loud crash, silencing the baby's wails permanently.
The grisly scene even shook the normally cold and callous guard to his core. At that moment, everything became blurry. For the first time, he began doubting if the prize he had yearned for so long was worth this. A hand grabbing him brought him back to the harsh reality as he looked to see the prince sobbing. "We have to save them! Please save them!" But from the look of his eyes and his voice, the guard knew that he already knew they were no longer alive.
All he could do was shake his head as the prince cried louder into his robe.
This… this wasn't the plan at all! You- what have you done?!
Then, as if by telepathy, a gleeful laugh erupted from behind them that caught the guard's full, anger-filled attention.
"Like the lights? I've always loved the way fire ravages everything it touches." The other sadistic guard laughed.
"Bastard! This is chaos! What have you done!?" The guard roared, only to receive a nonchalant chuckle as a response.
"I believe it's called 'mutiny'." The other guard answered coolly. "Or to be more specific, I'm done with you. You didn't actually think I was planning on following your plan to begin with and let you take the crown? No… the next ruler of this place is going to be yours truly."
"You…!" The guard hissed, beating himself over and over for not realizing the other guard's disloyalty and plan all along. The prince though, was too confused to fathom what was happening between them.
"Y-you…?" The prince shakily called. "Is that really you?"
"Hm? You're still alive?" The other guard asked before pulling his sword out with a grin. "Well, we can't have that now, can we?" The prince stared at the other guard in pure fear, so much that he couldn't move, but the guard wasn't afraid. He was furious, and he unsheathed his blade in front of him.
"Really? Now this is a surprise." The other guard mused. "What happened to cutting the kid in half and throwing his body into a moat?"
The statement furthered the prince's fears as he fearfully watched the guard. His world had crumbled completely and now he had no idea who was who. He adored the guard like a brother and the other guard was his father's most revered guard. How could this all be? The guard looked to the frightened prince, now a bit more remorseful, before looking back at the other guard. "Plan's changed. You should know all about it!"
"Yes. Yes indeed. That's why I came prepared." The other guard said, and with a snap of his fingers, other guards, all defectors of the governor, appeared with swords, surrounding the two in a circle. "It's been fun. When you get to hell, say hi to the previous king for me, will you?" The guard looked around desperately to find a way out for both of them when he saw another burning home next to them, though much taller.
Taking a gamble, he threw his sword as far as possible over the traitors' heads and managed to hit the weakening beam. The building toppled over helplessly over the guards as part of it smashed the ground, scaring some away. The guard took this golden opportunity, grabbed the prince and ran back to the woods where he was sure no guard would be. However, reality had sunk into the prince and he began struggling against the guard, crying and screaming at him all the way up to release him. The guard grumbled at his tantrums as they would soon be caught and executed if this went on long enough. He threw him down on a pile of dead leaves and shook him.
"Stop yelling, will you? Do want us to die?! If you keep screaming like that, they'll find us in no time and cut our heads off!" He scolded, but the prince cried even more.
"W-well… So what!? Isn't that what you wanted?!" The prince wailed bitterly. "You were the one who planned this! You were the one who helped him! It's your fault so why should you be worried!?"
"This wasn't my plan, okay?! It's his! Not mine!" The guard snapped. "I only wanted the throne! This… this isn't what I wanted!"
"Liar!" The prince yelled. "You're lying! This is all your fault! Your fault! YOURS!" The guard gritted his teeth. He had had enough of the prince and slapped him hard, then shook him vigorously with slight tears in his own eyes.
"SHUT UP! Just shut up for once you stupid, moronic, spoiled brat! This isn't my fault, you hear!? This is yours! If it hadn't been for your father my brother would still be here and I would never have had to live all alone, fending for myself every day because everyone hates you! If it hadn't been for you, I would be happy! I would have had friends and I would have had a family and my life wouldn't have turned out to be garbage! So stop nagging me and just go and die so I can have all that!" He screamed at the child.
The prince looked at him, shocked, disoriented and scared. The guard glared madly at the prince before noticing his bleeding cheek and his bruises from the vicious shaking, he was now at his limits and began to sob.
The guard, in quick realization, let him down gently and began tending to him. "No! Don't cry! I didn't mean that!" He quickly said. "Don't cry, don't cry! I'm sorry, okay?! Just don't cry! You're right! You're absolutely right! It's all my fault, just as you said! Everything you said is right!"
But the prince continued to cry as the guard's coos and many attempts to sooth him failed to reach him. The guard was now at a loss to what to do until he caught glimpse of some herbs nearby. He quickly recognized them as pain relievers and plucked them fast and handed to the prince. "Here, eat this. It will make the pain go away!" The guard promised.
The prince looked at the plants hesitantly. Seeing this, the guard took some and stuffed them into his mouth and chewed them. "See? I'm eating them, too!" The prince was confused by the guard's bizarre behavior and in truth, so was the guard himself, but with the situation at hand, there wasn't much room for wondering and the prince took the rest, chewed it as best he could.
The sore on his cheek slowly began to numb, enough that he finally calmed down to dry his tears. But soon, the two could hear footsteps close by and those were definitely guards who barked off orders to the lower runts to find them.
The guard quickly grabbed the smaller child and pulled him under a large hole beneath a birch tree. The guards, not noticing a thing, marched by, still trying to find them.
"I…I'm scared." The prince cried weakly to him. The guard, for the first time, held the smaller child in an attempt to ease his fears.
"It'll be fine." He said, watching out until the guards were gone. "Now listen, remember that secret place you took me to? My present?" The prince nodded. "Now, I want you to go there and hide. I'm going to go distract the guards away from you." The guard explained.
"But…what about you?" The prince asked.
"I'll meet you there later." The guard assured but the prince didn't move. He only looked at him, still scared from their argument just a moment ago.
"You- you mean it?" The prince asked shakily.
"Yes. You'll be safe there. No one knows about that spot but you and I. No one will find you there." The guard answered as he dried the last of the prince's tears.
"You… you promise?" The prince asked with desperation and fear. "You promise it will be safe? You aren't lying to me again are you!?" He asked, now frantic. The guard held him closer and nodded his head.
"Yes. You'll be safe there." He promised. "Just trust me. Just this time, trust me."
"O-okay…" The prince quivered as the guard let go of him. As he helped the child out, the guard patted his head. "Don't worry. Just stay there and be quiet." The guard said. "If I don't come, just stay there and wait two days. If I still don't come, escape without me."
"What!? But-" The prince gasped but the guard placed his finger over his mouth to hush him.
"Go. Now." He told him. The prince sniffled before nodding. The guard led him as far as he could before seeing him off. Once he was gone, the guard went further and climbed up a tree and waited. Just as his honed instincts expected, a guard came by and the guard jumped him, knocking the guard out quick with the strongest blow he could give to his head with a large rock he found in one hand. The guard didn't even have time to make a sound as he fell to the ground. The guard grabbed the man's sword and didn't waste time as he slew the guard and went to find the others, setting as many traps as he could on the way. Finally, he found them. A search party trying to find them and the guard decided to help them out. He took a pebble and tossed it nearby. One of them noticed and came to him and once he was within range, the guard shot and swung his sword, killing the guard instantly and notifying the others of his presence.
"There he is!"
"Don't let him escape!" The guard ran down, weaving his way through the trunks and rocks and continuing on as he heard some of his traps snap up, killing and confusing some of the other guards. In truth, all he wanted now was to meet the other guard so he could kill the man for everything he had done. Half way running, a tree rustled up ahead and the guard jumped back quickly and swung up his sword to clash with another.
"Nice to see you again!" The other guard greeted and the two retreated before clashing swords again and again. "And I see you're alone! Where's the kid? Don't tell me you're actually helping him?"
"Like I ever would!" The guard said as he slashed at him, missing and dodging his counterattack. "I took him so he would be my hostage! I need a little help escaping before I assemble another set of troops to help me take the crown, but this is good! I can kill you before I leave!"
"Hah! You're terrible at lying you know!" The other guard said as he blocked the guard's attack and pushed him away, but instead of retaliating, he put his sword down. Then, as if on cue, guards appeared and surrounded him. There were too many and the guard knew that he was done for. "Your life ends here." The other guard said. Strangely enough, as he saw all guards around him, the guard felt perfectly all right with that. If all the guards were here, then that meant he had effectively done his duty; his final duty. "And before you leave, I have a gift for you." The other guard said.
"Is it your head?" The guard asked cynically.
"Close. It's a head all right." The other guard answered with a sociopath-like grin as he looked towards the other guards. Some of them nodded and dragged out a sack then threw it near the center where the guard was. "Open it." The guard sighed and went up to the sack then undid the end. Then, reality dropped the cruelest sight imaginable in front of him. Inside was the prince, or rather his body parts, all chopped into pieces and his blood stained the entire inside of the thick, leather sack. "We found him hiding in a cave." The other guard explained with a cruel, cheerful smile. "I always keep tabs on him. I saw him scurrying out of there before and figured he'd come back, so I stationed some guards there to wait for him. Good thing I did, eh?" The guard didn't even listen.
He grabbed his sword and shot a glare at the other, screaming, "I'll KILL YOU!" But as soon as he lunged, the other guards came out, drew their swords and struck him down before he even got a foot near the other guard. Just as he was about to die, the guard shot up at the other guard and cursed him. And then, a guard plunged a blade into him followed by everyone else for good measure. Once they had finished mutilating his corpse, the other guard ordered for both their bodies to be thrown into the nearby river.
The guards obeyed and they grabbed what they could carry and dumped them both into and fast torrential river. Naturally afterwards, the other guard took over the throne and the traitors that helped him were all paid handsomely. But all their good fortune wasn't to last.
Something was wrong with their new leader and they meant this in every way. On his first night in power, he didn't sleep. He suffered from agonizing nightmares of being torn apart.
The next night, he screamed and pointed to an attacker who made an attempt to take his life but when his frightened servants looked to where he pointed, no one was there. But still, with each time he was left alone, he would scream at nothing over and over until a servant was forced to accompany him to his room.
And then finally, on the third night, his reign ended. As his maid entered to wake him up, she was horrified to find the new king in pieces on his bed. However, the gruesomeness didn't end there.
With each night that passed, each of the traitorous guards who helped in the chaotic coupe was found dead one by one in the same fashion in their homes until finally, the last of them was dead.
Initially, townspeople were scared for their lives. What sort of thing was doing this? What if it came after them? But after the last traitor died, the killings stopped.
Had it been the old warlord's ghost? Was he angry at the men he had trusted the most only to be deceived in the end? Perhaps it was the work of an intelligent loyalist to the king intending to avenge him. But since that day, the people were happy. The men who plundered the kingdom and killed so many to fulfill their own greed had paid for their crimes.
Still, the people mourned for their old king and more for the young prince who was as innocent as any child and deserved none of the torture his killers had forced him to undergo. But strangely enough, despite the fact he was dead, children who came into the forest swore on seeing a boy of the prince's description- his brown hair and silver eyes for which the prince was purely unique for. But it couldn't have been, for the children said the child was always sad and the prince was always happy.
But what baffled them more was the other young man they saw with the child. He carried a sword around and never left the child's side. Could it be the prince's guard? But the guard never seemed close to the prince at all so it couldn't be him.
In the end, the adults assured their children that it was simply a trick of the eye from the confusing darkness of the forest.
But is it really?
"So that's my story! What do you guys think?" a blue haired boy asked to his friends who all looked at him with a mix of apprehension and disgust.
"That was horrible!" A purple haired child cried out angrily.
"Hikaru's right! That was a horrible story, Kariya!" The smallest boy, donning a blue headband, yelled in agreement.
"It's a ghost story, Shinsuke! What did you expect?" Kariya yelled back but every other boy and three girls stared at him with the same horror-struck expressions.
"Still, that was too over the top!" A pink haired boy with two pigtails yelled at him. "Look! Hayami is muttering to himself again, and Shindou's shaking so much like its winter!"
Shindou, the brunette with wavy hair, was shaking all over, almost about to cry- not from fear of the story being true but from the brutality of the cold and senseless murders that those people were more than willing to commit like a human life meant nothing to them. It was a horrible way to go and he felt incredibly sad for the prince.
Everyone was in agreement and the fact that Kariya was the same age as them and yet he told the story like it was nothing was of great concern to them, even to Tsurugi who was the calmest and coldest of them all.
"You guys were the ones who wanted a story!" Kariya retorted and a red haired girl came and punched his head.
"Yes, but not a scary, gruesome one!" She snapped. "Look at Tenma! Your story was so bad it made his fever worse!"
The said boy was the most unfortunate of them all. You see, the children previously mentioned were part of a soccer club of their school. They were returning from a match when he fell ill and caught a fever and to top it all, their bus broke down, forcing them all to camp in the outskirts of the town where-would you know it- a large forest like the one in Kariya's story flourished.
"Why would you even tell one like that!?" She yelled at him.
"I just heard it from some old guy in the town! Don't blame me!" Kariya said.
"Hello everyone." A man wearing an orange headband, white short jacket and black jeans came by and greeted them. "So how is Tenma doing?"
"Worse! It's all Kariya's fault with his scary story!" Shinsuke cried.
"It's not!" Kariya defended. Still, the man went and checked up on the child shivering nearby and his fever had indeed gone up.
"I'll take him inside the bus so he can rest." He said. "And don't tell those sorts stories next time, Kariya. You know how jumpy Tenma gets."
"He wasn't even awake to hear it!" Kariya said, and the pink haired boy just punched his arm.
Once they left, the remaining children began arguing with Kariya. Unbeknownst to them, a figure inside the forest was watching them with particular interest, especially for the one named Tenma being taken inside to rest.
Inheritance- In the past, if one were to successfully kill a warlord, the man responsible would inherit all he owned.
Manju- Back then, instead of cakes, people steamed flour, rice powder or buckwheat with filling and sugar. They are then boiled together again and kneaded. Manju originally was called mantou, a kind of steamed bun originally from China. Nowadays, Mantou is small but in the past, used to be much larger.
Cake- is a form of bread or bread-like food. The guard called the manju a cake as it is a form bread. It's sweet and steamed but it's like a bread in some way.