King Kenzir stood before the bride and groom, his grip tight around the sceptre. He said solemnly, “I don’t know if this is the right decision.”
The three stood at the highest point of the palace, where all of Felor could easily see with a tilt of their heads.
“But since this is what my sister had hoped for, I will respect her decision wholeheartedly,” The king continued, gaze heavy on Locke.
Tears flowed down Angelina’s cheeks. Her brother was the only blood relative she had after the king’s passing. Though Locke had decided to not utter a verbal promise, he was determined to show his love through actions. He brought out the ring and slid it into place, kissing the tip of Angelina’s finger when he was done. The crowd clapped and cheered. They screamed out blessings at the new royal couple at the top of their lungs.
Despite his portrayed reluctance, the king himself had funded the construction of the prince consort’s mansion. It was two days later when Locke patted his gorgeous wife, Angelina on the shoulder. “How long are you planning to sleep? You haven’t seen the sun in two days.”
“Just leave me be,” grumbled Angelina. She shifted around, settling into a comfortable position and proceeded to close her eyes. They’d finally consummated their relationship and Angelina had plastered herself all over Locke over the past two days. She was adamant to have him all to herself but the outcome was predictable; Locke had essentially depleted her vigour. The Faustian princess was finding it extremely difficult to get out of bed.
Locke went off to train in the gardens before getting dressed to meet his parents. King Faustian’s passing hit home; Locke was made even more aware of the fleeting human life. He’d grown worried about losing his parents to age, which spurred daily visits to his parents ever since he’d returned to Faustian.
“You should drink more tea, it won’t harm you.” Locke couldn’t help but nag his father.
“Oh, don’t worry. I know.” Old Locke dismissed with a wave, taking a long drag from his pipe.
Tia eyed the duo. “I really do feel lighter after having some.” As his mother, she’d always had a soft spot for Locke.
Glace had been formulating tea with diluted health potions for the older couple upon Locke’s request. After all, Old Locke and Tia were now in their fifties. They may still look healthy and well but the earlier half of their lives had been harsh. Locke couldn’t help but worry about possible health repercussions.
“Ah, that reminds me. Why aren’t any of your women pregnant yet?” Tia finally brought up her biggest concern. It was true that they were incredibly jaded to the idea of life and death but that didn’t change their yearning for grandchildren. They were very concerned about Locke’s lack of offspring. The concern was aggravated upon seeing Hans and Caen; the men had brought their families into Felor for the ceremony. Hans’ son was already twelve years old and Caen too had a six-year-old daughter. Tia felt incredibly envious.
I’m… I’m still trying my best, mother. Locke had only dared to answer in his mind.
He would later find himself with Hans and Caen on the second floor of a luxurious tavern on the capital’s main avenue. Hans looked as though he hadn’t aged a single day. He’d been promoted to squadron leader, which meant that he was working alongside Caen. The man had even taken two wives! His life was simple but very fulfilling. Unfortunately, it appeared that there was barely any improvement in his impetus. Hans was still only as strong as a low-rank Knecht.
Caen, on the other hand, had embarked on a journey two years after the war. He’d ventured to many places and finally returned to Faustian when he grew tired. He then settled down in Quarryton and married a local. Perhaps the exploring had done much good to his mind for Caen’s current level had well surpassed that of Hans. He was now a peak low-rank Knecht, and Locke was certain that he could advance as a mid-rank Knecht in the next two years or so.
His brothers were thriving and Locke felt genuinely happy for them. They chugged mugs of highly intoxicating malt beer til the wee hours of the morning when Hans and Caen slumped over in defeat. Locke lucidly reached over to wipe their faces; this amount of booze was nothing to a quasi-Ritter. He called over his servant.
“Send these two to my mansion,” instructed Locke nonchalantly.
The servant bowed. “Understood, Your Highness.”
Locke watched his drunken friends quietly. He had an inkling that gatherings like these would be rare in the future. He tried to imprint this day in his mind; this was an occasion to be cherished and remembered for the years to come.
“My, my, Brother Locke! How can you not tell me that you’ll be visiting my business today?” A big gruff man emerged from the stairway with a loud booming laugh. Count Melson was the only person in the whole kingdom who’d dare to address Locke so casually. Anyhow, Locke wasn’t one to mind titles and names, even if he was now a prince consort.
After a brief exchange with Melson, Locke finally climbed into his carriage that’d been waiting on the side of the avenue. As expected, his Quarryton friends began to leave Felor for home a few days later. They couldn’t afford to be as carefree as Locke. The life of the peasants had largely involved an endless cycle of work.
“We share the same roots so we should help them as much as possible. I don’t wish for them to run their mouths back home,” muttered Old Locke to his son as they watched everyone leave. It was rare to see him without his beloved pipe.
“Yeah. I’ve already talked to a few nobles from the Dor Province. Hans and Caen will receive a knighthood title each and I’ve also made appropriate arrangements for Uncle Yushack and Karl,” replied Locke with a nod.
“I have to admit, the prince’s mansion is splendid, but your mother and I just can’t get used to it. We’ll be moving back home in a while,” complained the older man. The lavish prince consort’s mansion was built with the aid of two casters and hundreds of labour workers. Locke was at a loss for words about his parents’ discomfort but he could only relent. At least his new residence wasn’t too far away from home so it was convenient enough to pay Old Locke and Tia frequent visits.
The mansion turned incredibly quiet after his parents’ departure. Locke’s new princely status had attracted the attention of many distant relatives from the Dor Province. Yet, these relatives were more distant than the average stranger so Locke wasn’t interested in entertaining them. His coldness had driven them away to his parents and as a result, many of them were now living at his parents’ mansion.
King Kenzir had gifted him with shop lots and land equivalent to three viscounties. Locke wasn’t interested in them at all. He pondered a little. If those distant relatives managed to keep Old Locke and Tia happy, perhaps he wouldn’t be opposed to giving them a portion.
It was safe to say that the planar war had changed Locke from the inside out. He’d barely rested over the last few years, hence he was elated to start a six-month rest. It had been too long since he could afford to be idle and spend time around his family. This was a dream come true!
Six months of idleness wouldn’t elevate Locke’s impetus much. Even so, his mental health was at its best. He may be turning thirty soon but the plentiful blood vigour courtesy of his stronger impetus and hopeful personality wasn’t any less vibrant than a youngster in his twenties.