The flame screen had long dispersed, but the king remained rooted to the ground like a statue. Cough... the prince is still so young and vigorous," said the old man beside the king. He was the caster who had supported the flame transmission. In this country, only people of his status could speak so casually to the king.
"Sigh, I owe them," lamented the king, exhaling in exasperation. "Sorry to trouble you." He respectfully saluted the old man.
"It's no big deal, this old man is too old to fight enemies on the battlefield. It's also a pleasure to be able to serve you, my king," the old caster said.
"Yeah. Please escort the Meister back to the tower," the king instructed his attendants.
"Yes, Your Majesty." One of them walked out and helped the old caster away. The kingdom funded the construction of a magic tower for every high-rank Lehrling caster who had fulfilled their service obligations to the kingdom. The magic tower was the lifelong goal that every low-rank Lehrling sought to achieve.
After the old caster made his exit, the King was left with the company of a few servants and court ladies in the huge palace. "Sophia, this is the most I can do." The Faustian King was only forty years old. He was a wise king who was in his prime, yet here he was, sighing like a haggard old man. Sophia was the former queen, the love of the king's life, and also the mother of Angelina and Kenzir.
"The children are all grown up." The king recalled one incident where the prince had lost his temper. A large group of soldiers swarmed the prince to come to his defence. By then, he knew that his eldest son was already beginning to have a grasp on Lion corps.
Lion corps was Faustian's elite force. Whoever controlled it essentially had power over the entire Faustian military as well. That woman, the current queen, had been making her rounds around the nobles and finance minister in the royal capital all these years for one sole reason: for her son to inherit the throne.
Unbeknownst to her, Faustian's economy had been ruined after many years of war. Only a select few nobles were left with any ability or leverage to help her son take the throne. Currently, the country's most valuable asset was their frontline troops, the corps being the most prominent and powerful. Within the force, Prince Kenzir was one of most powerful leaders. Against him, her little son stood no chance.
Even if his uncle was one of the major nobles of the Ligia Union, he was merely one of many. After capturing the territories of Shalor, Faustian's national might had increased immensely. The entire Ligia Union had to bow to Faustian, to say nothing of a mere lord!
The king had full faith that Prince Kenzir would manage the country well. For as long as he lived, he had done as much as he possibly could to remove all the obstacles standing in the prince's way. As time encroached deeper into the night, the king retired to his study, followed by his servants, and started working tirelessly on his official duties. He was a wise and hardworking king; Faustian could doubtlessly attribute their success to having such a great leader.
As was their annual tradition during the autumn, Quarryton ushered in the celebration of the Beerfest. The Beerfest was a grand festival that was passed down from the royal capital, dating back several centuries. The purpose was to celebrate this year's harvest and look forward to the good luck in the coming year. Regardless how plentiful the year's harvest was, the festivities went on.
This year's Beerfest was as unremarkable as the previous year's. Billy, the mayor of Quarryton, was very confident in his management skills. He was 40 years old, and it had been 15 years since he took over his father's position as mayor. Like his father, he had lived comfortably through his youth, culminating in his 200-pound figure. But as he was about to resign in a few years, it suddenly felt as if his family's bad luck had accumulated for hundreds of years and was about to catch up to them.
"War! Another war!" Billy exclaimed. As he got older, he got more talkative. He would complain about everything under the roof, probably because his mind was perpetually occupied with worries. Perhaps that prevented him from enjoying the tranquility an elder should have. "Highgate, get your youngest son to the help out at the plaza!" Billy walked around the town, and yelled at the partially closed shop. After a response came, Billy moved on to the next shop. "Blitz, get out here! Is the beer ready?" Apart from beer, this inn also offered meals and accommodation. It was also the only shop in town with entertainment.
Blitz, the tavern owner, sported a crimson twin-braid beard. Black freckles dotted his nose and he carried around a big beer belly. Considering how food prices were skyrocketing, it was questionable how he managed to maintain such a figure. Billy scoffed, knowing that even he, the mayor, lost weight in recent years. It would be shocking if he still weighed 150 pounds now. "Blitz, are you done?" Billy shouted after hearing nothing in response.
"Yes, yes!" Blitz's deep voice rang out from inside the tavern. A red-bearded man walked out slowly with two wine barrels. He was a fat man far larger than Billy.
"What took you so long?" Billy grunted with dissatisfaction.
"Hey, beer has to be brewed first before it can be enjoyed. I was watching it in the cellar last night and unintentionally fell asleep," said Blitz as he scratched his head.
"You probably couldn't help it and drank enough to get drunk!" Billy stumped his crutch and scolded, "Are you sure this is enough beer for tonight?"
"Yes, definitely!" Blitz quickly agreed, "There are two barrels!" He patted the two barrels of beer he was holding. The two barrels were as tall as half a human; only Blitz could carry them both without panting.
Perhaps the glare the mayor shot Blitz was too intimidating. Without hesitation, Blitz carried the barrels and headed for the town center. Today's Beerfest festivities would be held at night, so he would have to send the beer over in advance.
Blitz carried the barrels away as Billy remained at the spot. If only there were other taverns in town, I would never order beer here! Billy thought resentfully. This was probably his most stifling year as a mayor. All the young men in town were eager to enlist in the army. On top of that, ever since the baron's conscription age was lowered from 14 to 13 last year, the town was left with only a few old men. The town was in a dire financial state, to the extent that they needed to import food from the baron. When will all of this end? Billy sighed.
Shaking his head, Billy went to the tailor next door. A festival with only beer-drinking would be boring. In order to liven things up, they needed at least two performances. A month ago, he requested Mitt, the old tailor, to make costumes for these performances. He wondered if they were done.
In Maple Village, every household started packing and doing their chores early in the morning. Although Beerfest was one of the more insignificant festivals in Faustian, it was the second-most celebrated festival in the Cardoj Domain, after New Year's. It was said that the first Baron Cardoj was a drinking enthusiast, hence the region's elaborate emphasis on the celebration.
Lia woke up early to help her mother feed the livestock and harvest rice. They had bought a few chickens quite some time ago. Ever since Locke became a squad jarl, the amount of money he sent back home increased. Locke Senior and Tia discussed it and bought a few chickens from the baron's caravan. Despite them only being small chickens, they were quite costly, because they were all hens. Besides, they needed to feed the chickens too. The consumption of several chickens was no less than one kid's. Now, they were the only family who had the ability to raise chickens in the village. The rest of the villagers were all envious.
Now that all the chickens were grown up (except for one that died early), the rest could contribute three or four eggs to their family every day. These hens were the treasure of the family and Lia spent a good half of the day taking care of them.
Locke Senior was still sleeping. Over the past two years, he had done most of the farm work alone. It was difficult to get a good yield due to the drought. He was si exhausted he had not woken up yet. He needed more rest.
Lia carefully picked up a basket of eggs. The basket was not big; it held about twenty eggs, which had been collected over the span of a week. Tia was planning to sell the basket of eggs in town that night. Their family rarely went to the town, but since today was Beerfest, the village chief wanted all of the villagers to be present. Not wanting to go empty handed, Tia had the foresight to save a week's worth of eggs to bring to town and sell them for a good price.
At ten in the morning, Locke Senior stretched and got out of bed. By this time, Lia and her mother were almost ready. Locke Senior greeted them and went to the fields. Although it was late autumn, there were still potatoes growing in the field. This cold-tolerant and dry crop was sold to farmers by the baron's caravan over the past two years. Although the potatoes were bland and small in size, the fact that they could be grown in today's fields in sufficient quantities to be a steady food supply was already a blessing. No one would nitpick about their size. Locke Senior was going to take a look at the farm. Since winter was coming, the various wild animals would be in a frenzy to stockpile food. If he did not check on his crops, all of his potatoes would probably be stolen by the guinea pegs in less than two days.
Locke Senior walked on the dirt road with a whip made of wooden vines. Although his land was not far from home, it was near the mountain stream. Leaves were falling along the way, and some grey-haired guinea pigs rushed through the dry grass. These guinea pigs used to be seen as adorable, but no one liked them now. Commoners, especially farmers, suffered from the indignation of having their food robbed by those critters.
Locke Senior walked onto his own field and saw piles of dirt all across his two acres of farmland. The roots of the tubers were clearly visible among the dirt piles, and there were some bite marks on them. "Damn these guinea pigs!" Locke Senior cursed as he walked to the soil bag and squatted down to push it flat. Potatoes were extremely resilient. If he covered them up in time, they could still live. After doing this, Locke Senior got up and struck the ground with his whip to scare off the timid guinea pigs.
Had he been 10 years younger, Locke Senior would definitely not let go of these guinea pigs. The meat that Locke had when he was a child was very limited. Aside from fishes and shrimp from the river, the only other source of meat was from guinea pigs. Locke Senior would have wanted his son try many new things.