"A couple days later the horrible flesh staircase had finally been burnt to the ground, nothing remained but a pile of charred bones. Bodies which once lined the streets had been collected and buried in a mass grave."
"None of the soldiers knew the true purpose of that monument, they simply thought it had been the work of the insane. Luna and Zera knew the truth though, they had sent a report of the recent events to Border Manager Farks and were awaiting a response."
"In the meantime the only three survivors of the Itzes massacre had awoken and Luna was currently on her way to talk to them."
"She needed something to take her mind off of the horrible experience she had climbing that staircase."
I lifted the tent flap to the infirmary and as it opened I saw three faces turn to look at me, they were the three survivors.
The stick boy, the giant boy and the girl all looked at me as I walked into the infirmary.
"I trust you have been told what happened?"
There was a brief moment of silence then the stick boy spoke out.
"Yea we know, you're all failures."
"What? These are the border guards that were supposed to protect us, and look what they let happen, our families are dead! Aren't you supposed to be some revered hero? You were called 'Blade' right? What a pathetic excuse for a border guard, you couldn't even stop the enemy. What use is a 'blade' who can't even cut-"
I put my sword beside me and knelt down, bowing my head to the floor.
This boy was completely right, we had failed them entirely.
"We the border guard have failed you, I won't be so rude to ask for your forgiveness but just know that this failure will haunt us for the rest of our lives."
The three of them were silent for a long time as I kept my head bowed down against the floor, this was probably the only time they had ever seen a Holy Knight bow their head. If any other Holy Knight saw this they probably would have thought I was throwing my reputation in the trash but in my eyes this was the least I should do.
"This is enough isn't it Uzair, her commander was killed and so were many of the soldiers, they marched right after to try and reach us in time. Let us not torment them any further."
"Hmph, whatever. Stop bowing your head to us, it won't bring back our dead families."
I slowly lifted my head and got up taking a seat on a nearby bed. The boy Uzair still refused to look at me but the girl Nel was smiling softly at me.
Wait, this girl was familiar...
I quickly pulled the picture out from my pocket and unfolded it. I looked between the girl in the picture and the girl sitting on the bed. They were the same! Nel saw the picture I was holding and her eyes opened widely.
"That picture your holding... "
I smiled softly as I handed it to her.
"I believe this belongs to you."
Nel handled the picture with the utmost care as she gently caressed it while looking deeply into it. She softly brushed the corner of the picture which was covered in dry blood and tears began to form in the corner of her eyes.
She questioned me in a shaky voice.
"W-where did you find this?"
"I found it in the town square by the fountain, I just happened to pick it up. I had hoped to find those in the picture still alive, it seems I found one at least."
"...The boy in this picture, have you f-found him?"
"Did he escape with you three?"
Nel weakly revealed that the boy in the picture hadn't escaped and she began to sob into her hands.
"When we were escaping the scarfed soldiers caught up to us but there was a Holy Knight trainee here who set up a barrier to hold them back. He told us to run but our friend had to stay behind, he was too wounded to run and I wasn't strong enough to carry him..."
I sadly listened to their story, it seems their escape was a tragic one laced with sacrifice. If their friend hadn't died outright and was captured then he must have been a part of the horrible flesh staircase at the camp.
"I'm sorry but your friend is dead. You three are the only survivors."
The tent was quiet for a long time, only the sobs of Nel could be heard. I tried my best to lighten the mood.
"That Holy Knight trainee saved you three, what was his name, it should be recorded in the book of deeds."
"The book of deeds?"
"Indeed, the book of deeds is where notable achievements of Holy Knights and Holy Knight trainees are recorded. They are used in the schools to teach the trainees."
The boy Uzair who had been silent this whole time spoke out.
"His name was Pontius and there's another name you should know. Pitri, the full Holy Knight who was stationed here, ran away as soon as the battle started."
My eyes opened wide in shock.
There was a Holy Knight stationed here who ran away?!?
"What! Is this true?"
I saw Omar and Nel weakly nod.
If there had been a Holy Knight here how many more people could have been saved? But instead of staying this Holy Knight actually ran, this wasn't just a disgrace it was a complete disregard of duty.
"Thank you for telling me, I will make sure to bring this up in my next report."
As I was brooding on this topic I saw Zera walk into the tent. She nodded to the three survivors then looked at me.
"We have received word from Border Manager Farks."
I nodded then turned back to the teens.
"I must go for a bit but in the meantime please consider where you want to go after this, I will do everything in my power as a Holy Knight to help you."
I saw the three look at each other, it seems they had much to discuss. I left with Zera. Word had come from Border Manager Farks, this was the only person who would be able to order Bruckus, thus, this was a man I must pay close attention to.
"So, what did Border Manager Farks say?"
"He said that he grieves for the loss of Empire citizens and the soldiers who died protecting the border. He also said he was glad to hear the invading forces have been eradicated and that he would be putting some other Holy Knights together to investigate the missing item and that we didn't have to worry about that."
Hmph, empty words.
"Was that all?"
"No, he told us to send the border army here back to the border. But he requested that we return to the Capital."
Returning back to the Capital? Holy Knights rarely returned back to the Capital once they finished trainee school.
"He said that the recent loss of Inquisitor Brackus has left a power spot open that needs to be discussed."
"They want me to advance to Inquisitor?"
"Most likely, they will probably be sending you on a challenge."
A 'challenge' was an event that Holy Knight's had to go through to be eligible to advance to inquisitor. It was a special mission handed out to only the most accomplished individuals.
But that wasn't what worried me. What worried me was the use of words, 'power spot', as far as I knew there wasn't a limit on how many Inquisitors or Holy Knights there could be but Farks referred to it as a 'power spot' indicating there was a limit. Something was suspicious about this.
Well, there was only one way to get to the bottom of this.
"Alright, I will set out at once."
I had to go to the Capital and meet this man.
"We*, will head out at once. Remember, I followed you when you were punished at the last border, you're not leaving me behind now!"
Zera held up her finger pointing at me and smiled as she corrected me. I smiled back and laughed.
"Of course, I'd have it no other way!"
I looked back at the tent. Now all that remained was deciding what would happen to the three survivors.
I could definitely set them up with a cozy life in the Capital somewhere. Holy Knights were given some privilege in regards to housing and financial aid. Spending it on them was the least I could do.
Walking back into the tent I was prepared to offer them a way out, I expected them to have worried faces or be unsure of what they wanted to do but what I saw on each of their faces was determination.
I was surprised, these kids had just lost everything they knew about, their friends, families and home were all gone. And yet they stared at me with a resolve which could only be found in the finest warriors.
When they saw me enter Uzair spoke up.
"We've decided on what we want to do."
I nodded back silently, no matter what it was I would do my best to help them.
"We want to become Holy Knights."
Anything except that...
They wanted to become Holy Knights? That wasn't a good idea, I tried to warn them off.
"Why? I am a Holy Knight and I've seen horrible things, killed many creatures, faced death many times over and tasted failure many times as well. You won't find any of the glory the stories tell-"
Uzair cut me off by raising his hand to me.
"Don't you think we know that. Think about what we've experienced, we know exactly how cruel this world is."
I became silent at that.
These kids have indeed lost a lot more than most.
"And that's exactly why we want to become Holy Knights."
I could see Uzair gripping his fists so tight that his knuckles went white.
"I wanted to fight them, my blood boiled when I saw them kill my parents but look at me, I could only take down one! If I was a Holy Knight I could've killed more, I could have saved more!"
Then the muscled teen Omar stood up and for some reason he displayed his strength by picking up one bed in one hand, truly this boy was too strong. Just as quickly as he picked up the beds he dropped them and they fell with a clunk.
"I always thought I was strong, but when I was in that tunnel and I only had the strength to carry away two people and had to leave a friend behind I realized how truly weak I am. If I was a Holy Knight how many people could I have carried away?"
The girl Nel got up and moved to stand beside me. She gently grabbed my hand with her own as she looked up at me with soft eyes.
"That day the boy I loved became seriously wounded to save me, the whole time I wanted to help him somehow but I couldn't and now he's dead. If I was a Holy Knight couldn't I have healed him, wouldn't he still be here today?"
She then let go of my hand and went to stand beside the two others.
"So please Holy Knight Luna..."
All three of them bowed their head and yelled out at the same time.
"Please help us become Holy Knights!"
I sighed and softly massaged my forehead.
How could I say no to them?
Besides, it was definitely within my power to recommend some to become Holy Knight trainees.
"Fine. It just so happens I have to go to the Capital for business, you three will come with me to ascend at the Church. But I can only get you three to become a Holy Knight trainee at most, the rest is up to you."
The three of them looked up at me smiling and nodded. I couldn't help but smile back at them and laugh a bit.
For some reason I felt these three could make wonderful Holy Knights.
I'm glad these three survived.