It was a quiet night at Velanik, a poor run-in city of the Fendel nation, where people were living in misery and poverty, without so much of enough fire cryas to keep themselves warm.
At the Inn of the city, Asbel Lhant, whom had stopped to rest there alongside the others before to continue their journey towards Zavhert, was in that moment trying to rest, but failing to do so, especially because of a weird singing that was coming downstairs (he would swear it was Captain Malik's voice, but it was just too weird to be true).
Near him, his brother Hubert was having trouble sleeping, too, but for a completely different reason: Pascal, whom was snoring profusely at few feet of distance, while speaking in her sleep about how much she wanted to touch Sophie. Cheria spent half an hour trying to have her stop doing so and get some rest, but after the latest failure, she simply went at the reception to ask for another room, while yelling how 'UN-BELIEVABLE' the situation was.
The young heir of Lhant, after another botched attempt to get some sleep, gave out a sigh before to put himself in a sitting position, staring at the moon in the night sky that was shining as brightly as ever.
Meanwhile, Hubert woke up too, walking annoying near his brother, as he put his glasses on his nose, staring at Asbel.
"This woman is just as annoying as she sleeps as she is while she's awake..." said Hubert, while sitting near him.
"Oh, yeah, she's very noisy, but it doesn't bother me too much!" answered Asbel, with a little smile on his face.
"That's why I'm still a little reluctant to let her come with us, and the same thing goes with that man. There's something about them that just don't convinces me..." said Hubert seriously, adjusting his glasses.
"Come on, stop it, Pascal and Captain Malik are good people, you should try to consider them our companions." simply said Asbel.
"I can't simply trust them like I trust you, Cheria and Sophie: they're strangers, and they've to be treated as such until further notice." replied Hubert, while adjusting his glasses at the same time.
"Instead, I can trust them like I trust you, or Cheria, or Sophie, that's what our Father taught us, don't you remember?" asked Asbel.
Hubert turned his face and adjusted again his glasses, saying: "I can't remember all of his sentences, and I don't want to do it. I'm an Oswell now, because he apparently didn't found me fit to be a member of his little family..."
Asbel sighed and said: "Don't be so harsh towards him... sure, I never understood why he did that to you, and probably I never will, but in the end, Dad wasn't so bad... I wish I could've seen it sooner. Only now I can understand some of his teachings, and I really would like to be able to thank him, somehow...".
"He's dead, you know. There's no way you can even think about the possibility to meet him and speak with him..." Hubert realistically pointed out, with a slightly annoyed expression.
"I know, but... I just wish there could be a possibility to do so, is all..." Asbel said in response, before to look down, pretty saddened by those thoughts.
"Don't think too hard on it, you'll just get an headache. Try to get some rest." simply said Hubert.
"If I were able to sleep, I wouldn't be there speaking with you right now, you know..." said Asbel.
"Then don't say such inconvenient things!" blurted Hubert.
"And what shall we talk about, then?" asked the violet-haired boy, staring at the Lieutenant with an annoyed tone.
"There's plenty of argument we can speak of...For example, we can talk about our battle strategy, to defeat with less difficulties our foes...Or we can try to think about some combined attack...But in that case, we should call the others too, and it will be troublesome... Perhaps we might try to organize a plan on how to spend our Gald funding so to not waste it with useless things... or maybe, we can make some practice in battle....? Or else... uh?" Hubert started to come out with some random topics, but before he could notice, Asbel already felt asleep, falling on the pillow like a rock.
Once he noticed, the young Strahtan military officer stared at him with a surprised expression, before to look away with a slightly annoyed expression, deciding that, if he couldn't go to sleep yet, he could as well try to get a walk: perhaps, that way he would've been enough tired to sleep despite Pascal's ear-smashing snoring...
Meanwhile, Asbel was sleeping heavily, without really dreaming of anything. The discussion he had with Hubert right before he ended up sleeping though was still affecting him subconsciously, though, and as a result, he was starting to slowly move around in his sleep, nearly on the point of waking up...
Until a familiar voice, that didn't heard in seven years, suddently yelled his name: "Asbel!"
Asbel, surprised, suddently woke up, breathing heavily and slowly, before to turn around, noticing to his surprise to not be inside the Velanik Inn anymore: instead, he was in his old room at Lhant Manor, exactly as he left it some weeks before, when he temporarily returned there.
Curious about how he could've ended up there, Asbel turned around, in search of the voice that called him, until he noticed another person inside the room... and widened his eyes in shock, once he saw who he was.
"I... Impossible...! You... you are...!" the young Lord of Lhant said, utterly speechless, as he stared in the eyes of his very own predecessor at the title: his father, Aston Lhant, killed in battle some weeks earlier.
"Fa-Father...!" an utterly confused Asbel said, but he was interrupted.
"Be quiet, Asbel" said his father.
"I... I don't understand, how can you be...? You are dead!" the violet-haired boy yelled, not understanding how his father could be there, in front of him.
"I said, be quiet, Asbel." said again Aston.
Asbel stared at his father, then said: "How can I stay silent? Do you think I don't want to speak with you?".
Aston stared back at him and said: "You never wanted to do anything like that in the past, so why would you even want to do anything like that, all of a sudden?"
"It's not something I've been thinking of just now... in those seven years in which I trained at the Knight Academy, I always thought about you, I always wanted to contact you, but..." answered Asbel.
"But you didn't do it, either way. In the end, it's not the thoughts that matter, but what you do about them. I've always put my actions before my thoughts in front of the others, and that's why Lhant was able to stay strong under my rule." Aston replied, looking down at his son, which now was staring at him with a slightly angered expression.
"Have you ever heard yourself? All you ever told me about is how I've to inherit the lordship of Lhant, and how I need to grow up to be a good ruler... what kind of tool do you think this can put on a kid? Didn't you ever thought that your methods could've probably been wrong?" Asbel asked, as he lowered his head.
"I've never looked back at my decisions, once I choose to follow them through, no matter how stupid and senseless they could've seemed to an outsider's eyes. I did my best to be a good father, no matter what you and Hubert might have thought of me in those seven years. I've always thought you were unfit to be my successor, and that's why I always tried my best to raise you into a good ruler." Aston commented, looking rather sure of his words.
"You know... until today, ever after learning of your death, I always wanted to ask you for forgiveness... but, apparently, I completely forgot how much of a jerk you have always been..." the younger Lhant said, staring with a pretty annoyed expression at his defunct father.
"You call me a jerk, but you don't really believe your own words. You just want to escape an argument where you can't win, just like you've been doing for all those years. In the end, I'm sure that you just choose to become a Knight in spite of me, to do something I wouldn't have approved of..." Aston commented, telling what he thought was the truth behind Asbel's escape from home.
"That's not it at all! The only reason I choose to become a Knight was so to be able to protect the others! I give up on my dream to become one only to be able to save Lhant!" Asbel yelled in response, pretty hurt at hearing what his parent thought was the truth.
"It didn't helped you much then, given what I saw... you've been the worst lord that Lhant has got since its founding." the older man said, making the younger one to feel embarassed and ridiculed, knowing fully well that his father was right about it.
"But, if you insist on saying that what you did was the correct choice, and that you can be a fitting ruler to our city... then, challenge me. I'm sure that, if you can hold your own against me, maybe you won't be as bad as I think you're..." Aston simply said, crossing his arms, while Asbel looked down, thinking about what his father just said.
A duel against him... he never had a chance to do so, but he always thought his father was a great swordman, and never ever thought about if he would've been able to match his strenght or not... but, in the end, if that was the only way he could've shown him to have grown, he would've gladly fought him as many times as needed.
"Okay, then... I accept it. I won't lose against you!" the violet-haired boy simply said, with a slight smile on his face, while Aston retained his aloof and calm expression, staring at his son.
"Very well, then, follow me: we should go outside, now." the older Lhant said, exiting from the room, followed by his son shortly after.
After they left Asbel's room, Aston, followed by his son, arrived in the garden in front of the Lhant residence, but nobody could be seen: nor Frederic, or Lady Kerri, or nobody else, there were only the two of them in that place.
"Are you still sure about what you said earlier? Are you still sure you want to challenge me?" Aston asked, to be sure if his son really wanted to go through with his offer.
"Yes, we'll fight. Right now. Here." said Asbel with determination, wanting to show his father what he was made of, with a tone that just screamed how sure he was, as he extracted his sword.
"That's good to hear... now...Come at me!" answered Aston, extracting his sword too: it was the sword that Asbel used when he was a child.
Without hesitating, Asbel charged towards his father, taking off his sword in the process, before to try to slash Aston's right arm, so to make him lose his grab on the weapon: however, the older man was quick enough to use his sword to block his son's blow, and then manage to draw him back by force, simply putting resistance to the younger warrior's attack.
"I see you're still strong, dad..." Asbel commented, with a little smile on his face as he said this.
"You're not too bad, as well, but you've still a lot to go through to even match my level!" his father replied, before to attack him: he tried to strike an hit from below, but Asbel managed to use his blade to block the attack, sighing in relief: that had been a pretty close one...
"I'm not finished yet!" Aston shouted, before to start to attack with an unmatched fury, using lots of incredibly fast attacks, that Asbel was able to block only by using all his skills and by defending as faster as possible.
"What's it? Is this really all you've got?" the older man taunted him, with an ironic tone and a slight smirk on his face.
"No! I will fight until the end!" Asbel answered vigorously, not wanting to give up at all, as he kept blocking all of Aston's attacks.
"Then let's stop fooling around... it's time to fight for real!" the father commented, stopping suddently his string of attacks and stabbing his son in the stomach.
Asbel tried to avoid the hit, but it was still not fast enough to avoid being slashed through the flank, clenching his teeth not to scream.
"How was that, Asbel?" Aston asked his son, noticing amusedly the results of his previous attack.
"It hurts... but I'm not going to let myself get hindered by this! It's time for me to start to fight seriously, too!" the violet-haired boy yelled, before to slash towards Aston, followed by a series of kicks, all the while shouting "NIMBLE FANG!"
Aston rapidly used his sword to block his son's blow, but he didn't expected at all the kick , so he was hit on his stomach and draw back.
The older man was impressed by the feat, slightly smiling as he said: "That was a good attack, Asbel, not bad at all, but... are you ready for the counterattack!?" and after he said this, Aston approached his son and with a powerful blow tried to hit his legs, to make him fall.
Asbel quickly avoided the hit by moving to the side, all the while still facing him, before to try to hit him with a series of kicks, after sheating his sword.
Aston avoided all the kicks and then he catched the leg with which Asbel was trying to hit him, and after that he raised with his strenght Asbel taking him with the leg for throwing him away.
Asbel then flew away, falling some meters away from where he and his father were fighting, and his Aston was going to hit Asbel again...
"Now, take this!!!" announced Aston, running against Asbel, ready to cut him with his sword...
But, before he could strike him, he not only avoided the hit, but sheated his sword with determination, yelling "IT'S OVER!", before to run towards his father, keeping the sword on the ground, and then swinging it vertically towards him, yelling "I'LL DEFEAT YOU! STAMPEDE STRIKE!", inflicting a colossal amount of damage on his parent.
Aston was surprised by that powerful blow, having , he was thrown away.
After a few seconds, he rose after the attack and stared at his son, then tossed the weapon at his side, a slight smile on his face, and said: "Enough.".
"Uh...?" Asbel was a bit surprised by his father's reaction, blinking twice, before to ask "What do you mean with 'enough'?"
"I just wanted to test your strenght and your resolve...And I have to be honest: you have quite impressed me." Aston answered , sheathing his sword.
"What...!?" said Asbel, shocked and surprised for what his father just said to him.
"That's nothing strange about it, I think, that was only a fight between a father and a son... I didn't never had the chance to do it when I was alive, and I always thought you would've liked to see who of us was the best in fighting..." with a little of melancholy in his speech, Aston talked to his son.
"I-I see...So, now...?" asked Asbel, insecure about what would happened next, but he was sure that the battle was over, so he sheathed his sword.
"And now...you have something left to say...Am I wrong?" said Aston, crossing his arms, with a serious expression.
Asbel lowered his head, and started to think about what he have left to say...after a few seconds, he raised his head, then said: "Do you forgive me? For what I've done?".
"Eh... seems like you didn't got it." said Aston, with a little of disappointment in his voice, before to turn around and say "If anything, we should both tell eachother excuses for the respective errors. Both tried to act according to what we believed was the best decision... but in the end, all we did was to utterly destroy our family. Just see what happened with you and Hubert... I didn't wanted the things to end like they did between you two, and yet, they did... of all the things I regret, this is probably the biggest one..."
"Oh, come on... it hasn't been so bad: Hubert hasn't changed as much as you think, too, and we're still brothers, even if we belong to different families now. I agree with you, though, it's past the time to cry over the past, and right now, I should just keep focus on my future, the future of the Lhant family." said Asbel, that only at that moment started to undestand what his father meant.
"Well said. Finally, you start to understand." commented Aston, slowly approaching the fountain still destroyed that was in the garden, and when he arrived near the fountain's remains, he picked up something from the ground, before to turn towards his son and say "Here, Take this!" and when he said this, Aston threw the fountain's piece to Asbel, who catched it before to give a look at it: it was one of the pieces
"Uh...? asked Asbel, confused, watching the fountain's piece that his father threw to him.
"As you know, that's a piece of the fountain of our garden, and now it's destroyed...Now you must rebuild it, because what we, the older generation, left destroyed, should be rebuilt by you all, the younger generation. I might have made my mistakes in my lifetime, but if that helped in shaping you and Hubert in the men you are today, then I'm happy about my choices. Now, it's you who will guide the Lhant family, and I'm sure you will do a splendid job about it." explained Aston, watching proudly his first son.
Asbel simply watched that simple piece of the fountain that was destroyed during a battle not too much time before as he listened to his father's words. He then nodded to him in agreement, before to reply: " I'll do it, father. I'll create a bright future for Lhant starting from what you did for it, and the resultwill be a future of which you should be proud of!".
Aston smiled, he was already proud of his son, only by hearing those words, and continuing to smile he said: "You've grown up, Asbel, I've nothing else to say or to teach to you. You, now, are my worthy successor. You can go throught your own way now, and I wish you the best of luck for the future..." Aston said with a slight smile, and as he was saying this, Asbel's view started to become foggy, as the world seemed to fade away around the young heir of Lhant.
"Uh...? What's happening here...!? Father...!!!" Asbel tried to call his father, frantically trying to reach for his father, that simply kept smiling until everything faded into whiteness...
A voice was once again calling for Asbel, but it wasn't his father's voice, it was the voice of a girl...
Asbel suddenly woke up, looking around himself with a confused expression: he was once again in Velanik, at the Inn where he slept in, and Sophie was trying to wake up him.
"What...? Sophie...? What's going on...?" Asbel asked, not understanding what just happened.
"You have been sleeping way longer than usual, and we were all starting to become worried about you!" the young girl explain, and only then Asbel noticed that in the room there were all the others: Cheria, who was behind Sophie, near Asbel's bed, Hubert, who was staring in a bad way at Pascal, who was near him, and finally Malik, who seemed to have a sore throat for some reason.
"Oh, I see... So, this mean that...I was dreaming, huh?" said Asbel, with a little of sadness in his voice.
"What were you dreaming about, Asbel? Was it a nice dream?" asked Sophie, curious.
"Yeah...We can say that it was, Sophie." answered Asbel, rising from his bed, before to look at all the others, stopping on Cheria in particular.
"Are you ok, Asbel?" asked Cheria, a little worried about Asbel, but the boy simply nodded at her, telling her "Don't worry Cheria, I'm okay now. I assure you that there is nothing wrong right now."
"That's good to hear, Asbel. I hope you will prepare yourself quickly now, since an intense day awaits us...." commented Malik.
"Indeed it does!" Asbel said, smiling a bit, before to look down on his pocket, after noticing that something was inside it.
"Uh...?" a bit curious, the violet-haired boy took the mysterious object out... discovering that, much to his surprise, it was a piece of Lhant Manor's fountain, the very same one that Aston gave him in his 'dream'.
"What's that, Asbel?" Sophie asked, staring at it with a curious expression, not understanding what could that have been.
"It looks like a piece of some sort of sculpture. It might have ended up in Asbel's pocket during the commotion of the battle at Lhant some time ago." Hubert said, as he adjusted his glasses and analized the shard.
"Maybe..." Asbel said, smiling, before to put the shard back on the pocket, and saying "Well, you can wait for me in front of the Inn, there's something that I've to do right now..."
All the others agreed, and quickly went out of the room, leaving the young Lhant alone inside the room.
Once that happened, he turned towards the window and looked at the sky, a little smile appearing on his face, before to say "Thank you, father...", and then grabbing his stuff and reaching the others, charged and ready for everything that awaited him, happy about having finally clarified things with his father, wheteter it had been a dream or not..