Royalty was always a mixed bag for Julius. He had met plenty that were okay, if a bit hard to deal with, but he also met plenty that were, in his mind, impossible to deal with. As such, he was always hesitant to meet with royals.
The fact that even Douglas called this guy eccentric made things worse, and having to wait in some lounge until he showed up was making Julius even more antsy. There was also the fact that Douglas had gotten them into the palace really ridiculously easily. Hell, the guards–all dressed in teal tunics and chainmail, along with winged helmets–even greeted him by his first name!
Granted, Julius usually had an easy time getting into the Lucene’s castle, but it still felt weird seeing it from the outside. No guards ever addressed him as anything other than ‘Sir Goldforge’.
It was a petty complaint, but he was still making it.
It didn’t help that Douglas absolutely refused to heal his black eye and was still smugly grinning at him from a nearby couch.
Julius sighed, leaning back into his own couch’s cushions. There were four of them, set around a short table in the center, while the rest of the wide room was filled up with various other seats and tables. His students were currently over in that other area, busy helping themselves to the buffet set out for them while they chatted with Sylsa over her life in Tramontava.
It turned out she was from western Naloriva, and met Douglas when he visited her town, and now she was learning about ‘arcane mysteries’ and other magical stuff from him. She was also seventy-three, so Douglas really was just being a dork by saying she was younger than him.
Julius glanced at his old ally again. He was still smirking at him. Julius sighed. “I’m sorry from slamming you into the street. It was disproportionate.”
“Oh? Well thank you! That makes me feel so much better!” He grinned, before placing a hand over his eye and promptly healing his injury, because of course. He never apologized for anything, but he’ll hold out for ages until someone apologized to him…
Rather than air his grievances, Julius just sat up straighter. “So how long will it be until King Friedrich gets here?”
“King Fritz can be a bit flighty so I’m not sure.” The pit in Julius’s stomach dropped even further. “But he should still be here, he just got back from honeymoon so I don’t imagine he’d be going out that often.”
“If you say so. So…how’s everything been?”
“Great really, I’ve nearly mastered every type of magic I can get my hands on, currently at least, and I’ve also put my talents to great use, like helping create airships.”
“You did that?”
“Yup! Took awhile to get the proper setup, and correct ratio of heat to wind stones, but so far it’s been great! Of course Fritz has this weird hangup with sky pirates, which doesn’t make much sense, but oh well.”
“If sky pirates were a thing, I’m pretty sure Graves would be leading them.”
“Please don’t make me imagine that.” Shuddering slightly at the thought, Douglas leaned against the arm rest. “How’s smithing gone for you?”
“My shop is still running for one. Granted, that’s probably cause of my workers. Oh, before I forget, have you seen Cyrus recently?”
“No, last I heard he was near Divica, though of course that was a few months ago, why are you asking?”
“Maria wants to meet him. She’s one of his kids.”
“Really? Another one? How many does that make?”
“That I personally know? Or that I’ve just heard about?”
“Counting Maria and Andrew, I know five of them. Counting those five, I think there’s about twelve of them around.”
“Ha! Ah, you’re close. Seventeen.”
Julius blinked. “…What?”
“Yes, it’s surprising, our dear friend’s a complete slut. Note for posterity that those seventeen children resulted from only some dalliances with those capable of becoming pregnant and we have no idea how many people he actually had sex with, and, frankly, I don’t want to know.”
Thankfully, before things could get too awkward, the double doors to the room were opened by a pair of servants and three people strode in.
King Friedrich was, of course, immediately distinguishable. Standing somewhat shorter than those he walked with, the slender king seemed to radiate confidence as he walked towards Julius and Douglas. His long, flowing, jade hair complemented the loose robes draped over his body and contrasted with his pale white skin, yet it only seemed to add to his charm.
To his left was the Pontiff of Air, an older man with light brown, graying hair and a short mustache. While he did not carry the same air of confidence as his extravagant and admittedly very pretty king, he still had an air of kindness about him, a small smile seemingly etched on his narrow face. Dressed in green robes that were decorated with teal swirls, he looked like the epitome of a Pontiff. Which, considering the last one Julius had met was a fumbling drunk, either said a lot or very little.
However, it was the third person that caught Julius’s attention the most.
To the right of Friedrich was Charles Lucene, third prince of the Lucenevan Dominion. His brown hair was swept to the side, and a pair of oval glasses rested on his face; in short, he looked just like when Julius first met him. One new addition, however, was the jade ring on his left hand, a pale teal stone visible in its center. One that matched the gem in the king’s own golden ring.
For a brief moment, Julius stared right at Charles while his shaken mind had to come to terms with the fact that the small kid that used to call him uncle was now grown up and married.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Uncle~!”
Wait, no, that didn’t sound right.
“Is there something wrong, Uncle?”
Coming back to reality, Julius stared up at King Friedrich. A large smile was on the king’s face as he stared down at Julius. It took a moment, but the instant Julius realized that Friedrich had called him uncle, he nearly coughed up blood.
“…Please don’t call me that.”
“I told you he wouldn’t like it, Friedrich,” Charles muttered as he bowed to Julius. “You must forgive my husband, he can be quite hard to handle.”
“Oh come on now, Charles our lovely dove~! You can’t just tell us about the man you view so wholeheartedly as a close uncle and dear member of your family and then expect us not to call him that! It would be insulting him!”
“It really wouldn’t, so please don’t call me that,” Julius requested.
“Hmph, fine, ruin our fun.” Friedrich huffed, but then his green-painted lips curled up with a grin. “So it seems our palace is filled with heroes today~! Heroes that we’ve heard such wonderful, interesting things about!”
Julius immediately glared at Douglas. “…What? I didn’t say anything yet.”
“Oh no, not Dougie, no need to worry about him, we haven’t had a chat yet. Though we did hear that a certain someone shouted certain things and a certain other someone bodily slammed the other someone into a certain something but that can be saved for later when we actually know what any of the somethings are, now!” He abruptly clapped his hands together and grinned. “Former heroes, Douglas Yew of Naloriva and Julius Goldforge of Luceneva, sons of our sister nations, would you lend your ears to us~?”
Julius leaned back a little warily. “…That’s not literal, is it?”
“Hm…no, we don’t think it will be. For now, we must discuss a number of topics of interesting points while your dear students eavesdrop upon us!”
Julius blinked, then glanced at his students, who immediately went back to pretending to talk. “…We could just have them join the conversation.”
“No, no, that wouldn’t do. Heroes should learn things without vast amounts of exposition. It must flow naturally~!”
“Through overhearing it.”
“Indeed! Now, to topics! Herald of the Holy Wind, do find a nice seat for your esteemed self while our hubby and we enjoy our loveseat~!”
Charles blushed slightly, scratching his cheek and smiling before he sat down on the couch across from Julius. Once he was there, Friedrich promptly sat in his lap, grinning as he leaned back against his husband. “Now then, to the various matters at all of our hands!”
Julius felt something in his face twitch. “…Sure. Okay. Douglas, you start.”
The sheer look of betrayal on Douglas’s face actually did raise his spirits slightly.
“Er…a-he-he-hem, well, your eminence-”
“Your majesty. No, your eminence. No, your…dove, which form of address does your father use?”
“Your majesty, sweetheart,” Charles answered with a fond smile.
“Ah, interesting…no, no, best to be original, your eminence will suffice for us.”
Douglas blinked. “…Alright. So, your eminence, uh…Since this is Julius’s quest, he really should tell you the details.”
Oh that son of a- “Well, it is Douglas’s home country. He should probably handle that kind of stuff, right? I’m just the guest to his host, after all.”
“Ah, but no, really, my dear, good friend who is far more competent in practical matters than I am would most assuredly be better at describing what his quest entails.”
“Douglas made airships, that makes him more qualified.”
“Julius repaired the legendary sword! That’s much more impressive!”
“It was just the hilt! And who was the one who killed Irascagan with only magic? That’s right, you-”
“But what about how you decapitated the Great Earth Dragon to avenge your master’s death, that was far more impressive-”
“Douglas does more to help people-”
“Julius is better at fighting-”
“Just explain the fucking thing you-!”
“It’s your stupid quest, you should handle it-!”
“WE’RE TRYING TO GET TO THE WIND TEMPLE,” Adrien abruptly shouted, then went right back to his tea as Julius and Douglas stared at him.
“…What he said.”
“Yes, yes, we understand that part,” Friedrich replied, one leg crossed over the other. “Why do you think we brought Leitmotif?”
“Ponty Andy,” Douglas answered, gesturing at the pontiff, who was apparently named Andy Leitmotif.
“Oh.” Right. The air god, Kataba, had decided to be extremely obtuse with his temple and always made the heroes of whatever time visit his pontiff and get an actual key just so they could enter.
“Yes, we brought him so he could give you that key thingamajig. Andrei?” The pontiff nodded, and reached under the front of his robes to pull out a teal key on a necklace, a spiral design at its head. “See?”
“…Okay? So…what do you want to hear?”
“We didn’t want to hear a thing. We only sought to tell you of our own thoughts,” Friedrich replied with a cheerful grin as Charles shrugged and smiled sympathetically behind him, “We did think you intended us to hear things though, due to your telling Sir Yew to tell us things to tell.”
Ah, that time his temple throbbed. “…Okay. So what did you want to tell me? Uh, your eminence.”
“Oh, so you do add addresses? We thought your culture merely left off such things, curious, particularly curious.” Don’t facepalm, do not facepalm- “Now, onto important matters, are you at all in the interest of stealing the temple core for me?”
Julius slammed both hands into his face and groaned deep into them.
“Ah ha! The predicted reaction comes true! It seems we owe you, my dove~”
“Heh. That’s twice now sweetheart~ You’re going to wind up owing me a lot now~”
“As if we don’t already~” Friedrich chuckled, before grinning at Julius as he slowly dragged his hands down his face. “No need for concern, Sir Goldforge, we merely sought to ask~! You see, that lovely lord of the East came to us recently, seeking our royal presence!”
“We have tea with Galinori every so often,” Charles translated.
“Precisely! And you see, the lovely lord told us the most intriguing tales of a particular handsome adventurer who did her a number of great kindnesses~.”
“…She didn’t tell you we fucked, did she?” Wait, shit. Julius winced as a number of spittakes echoed out from the students’ corner.
Friedrich actually blinked, apparently genuinely surprised as Charles immediately went red-faced behind him. “Well no. No she didn’t. That is an interesting tidbit, one I did not know at this point, but-Ah, one we did not…ignore that slip, it didn’t happen.”
“…Can we ignore what I just said too?” Oh gods dammit, Douglas was grinning at him. He was never going to let that go-
“Can I jump out that window?”
“The protective sylphs set around the palace would catch you.”
“I’m not hearing a no.”
Friedrich chuckled again and leaned back against his husband-pillow. “Back to the less sexual matters at hand, Galinori told us of your daring theft and the opportunities it has allowed her.”
“You mean like fighting angels and getting smited?”
“No, like trading with a realm of paradise.”
Friedrich’s grin got wider. “Yes, it’s the most delightful thing~! You see, dear Lady Foco appears to have sent down her seraphs and found a very amicable soul in our mutual draconic friend.” They were still talking about Arancoda, right? There wasn’t some other dragon named Galinori involved, right?? “As such, things have progressed quite fruitfully for all parties involved. It seems a paradise of fire does lack in certain mortal amenities, which lovely Galinori has seen most fit to provide, particularly with our kingdom’s gracious charity.”
Was it really charity if he was getting money out of it?
“Really, someone like her would be quite the catch for anyone of those who enjoy the female company. Though not many would be suitable for her, but we imagine a former hero who helped her gain her new fortune would be very fitting~.” Julius blinked. “Though we suppose you’ll have to gain approval of her two dragon servants first, the red one and that adorably green boytoy~. Ah, but worry not! Even if you may be human, it’s not impossible, after all, our own father was quite successful in wooing our mother, a queen harpy no less! Not to mention the countless other love stories of those from different species. Why, our gracious lineage is even descended from the blood of Kataba himself! Or one of his angels, it could be either, really, but the blood is still there, most likely.”
Getting romantic advice from a king who was younger than him was probably the last thing Julius imagined would happen today, and if he was honest, he really didn’t want to hear anymore. Especially since he wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not.
“Ah…King Friedrich, your eminence, not to be rude, but could we please get back on topic?”
“Oh, yes, our apologies, we tend to ramble quite often on a great number of topics and subjects and other such things. Worry not, we won’t ask you to steal a temple core, even if our lineage may descend from Kataba, he is far more temperamental, to say the very least, when compared to the nurturing Foco.”
“I see. Well, I’m glad to he-”
“Oh! Before we forget! We did wish to mention one more thing,” he continued right over him, “Galinori was so pleased with how everything turned out, she mentioned she would be willing to let you take her name, should you so wish.”
“Galinori said she would be willing to let you marry her, for what you did.”
“…Ah.” And another chorus of spittakes followed suit.
“Hm…Actually, we suppose the new information we received puts a new light to her being impressed by you.”
“Please stop doing this to me,” muttered Julius.
“Ahahaha~! I suppose I’ve had enough fun here. Really now, we should not discuss your love life with such levity now should we? After all, you have began a suit of an entirely different sort, have you not?”
Julius blinked again, then glanced at Douglas. He rapidly shook his head in response, holding up his hands and mouthing ‘didn’t’.
“…And what suit would that be?”
“Why, your one with the Lord from the far east, our dear uncle. No? Your face says no. Fine, Sir Goldforge then, but this distance with your family really should be addressed.”
“I’m not your family.”
“Um, Jules? Could you just hear him out?” Charles spoke up, grinning a little awkwardly. “Fried teases a lot, but he means well.”
“Aw, such lovely support from my most favorite dove~ And yes, my dove is quite correct. We assure you, Sir Goldforge, we have no intention of harming you for your love.” He grinned. “Quite the contrary.”
“…And what does that mean?”
“Do you think you could set up a trade route through the Dark Lands?”
Julius blinked. “What.”
“Sir Goldforge, as the sovereign of our lovely kingdom, we must act in her best interests! No war and a sudden influx of goods from a continent none in the Light Lands trade with? You understand, such a thing is an enticing jewel in our eye, and we so desire to take that beauteous jewel into our loving hands~.”
“Now, do not get us wrong. We understand if things do not work out and certain things occur that result in conflict, however, we would also like to say that if you were to require dowry, certain arrangements could be made.”
What. “…Uh. Could you…explain what you mean?”
Friedrich actually rolled his eyes at him. “You. Marry. Valondrac. We. Get. Rich. Peace. For. Ever. Good, yes?”
“I’m not-…I’m not an idiot. I just…I’m not…” Julius was pretty damn one marriage wouldn’t fix everything.
“Sir Goldforge, this is an opportunity, you understand? One our peoples haven’t had in millenia. Possibly even ever. The Dark Lands, once known as the Demon Lands, have been in conflict with her neighbors and the Noble Lands, now known as the Light Lands, from before Surodus vanished. There has been conflict before and after the Ancients were sealed! There has been conflict before humanity even existed as it does now! Yet love could solve that. If you are serious in your suit to Valondrac, I earnestly encourage you to pursue it with all the strength you have within you.
He smiled as he sat up straighter, somehow seeming taller. “Sir Julius Goldforge, I, Friedrich Medianu Krieter von Sorafin, as King of Tramontava, Sovereign of the Lands of Wind and Sky, wholeheartedly support your endeavors in regards to Lord Valondrac of the Dark Lands. I trust your judgment, and I hope for the best.”
Then Friedrich stood, brushing down his robes. “Now, I believe that is all we wanted to say. Do enjoy your time in our land, Sir Goldforge. Try the bratwurst, it’s delicious. If you’ll excuse us, we have other matters to attend to. Some political, some pleasurable, but you’ll forgive us if we do not share details. We are not as open as you are, dear sir.”
He chuckled, then took Charles’s hand and helped him up. He smiled up at his husband, then grinned at Julius again and walked off.
Julius, meanwhile, blinked again. “…huh.”
“…Wow, that is…far bigger than I made it out to be,” Douglas muttered, leaning back in his cushions. “…Would I get access to the Ancient Towers if you married Valondrac?”
“Oh my gods Douglas–”
“It’s a legitimate question! I should get something out of this, shouldn’t I? Other than all that peace stuff, and trading and would tourism go up too? I’ve heard interesting things about Inrapaban architecture…”
“They have gargoyles Julius! They made stone demon dragon things! Living ones! You can’t take this from me!”
Julius sighed, then flopped back into his own couch cushions. Why did they have to be so damn comfy…Then he blinked and glanced at the pontiff. Who was still there. “…Uh…”
“Hm? Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just here to give you the key.”
“…Okay? Uh…any thoughts on what just happened?”
“Not really. I think his eminence described the situation quite thoroughly. Don’t take the core, try your best with the seduction, achieve world peace. Quite simple, I would say.”
“…I mean…don’t you have any…divine insight?”
The Pontiff stared at him flatly. “Sir Goldforge, my god would encourage you to do any number of things ranging from forming a harem of all rulers in the world to annihilating the Dark Lands entirely. He is not a font of wisdom.”
“…Uh…okay. Why do you worship him?”
The Pontiff snorted. “Someone has to keep his angels in check.” He stood, took the key from his neck, and laid it on the table. “Do your best, and try to let things take you where they will. The world is something something, I’m not the best at speeches, and I’m done here. Peace.”
And then he promptly walked over to the window, threw it open, and jumped right out.