Crest of the Dragon Chapter 1
The Price of Nobility
By Luna Crescent
"God, please help us sinful children of Ivalice."
The Princess knelt in prayer; hands clasped in front of her, as the priest and her guard looked on. Even though she was royalty, there was nothing she could do to stop the inevitable war in her country.
"Princess Ovelia, let's go."
"Just a moment, Agrias "
Arias Oaks was her most loyal and trusted Knight, maybe her only friend, even if she worried too much over her safety.
"Princess, don't give Agrias trouble. Please hurry "
The doors opened and Agrias turned to see one of the female Knights walk in. "The guards have arrived."
Ovelia rose to her feet, "All right, let's go." She turned to the priest, an old but warmhearted man. He was always kind to her.
"Go with God."
She nodded, "You too, Simon."
Once outside Agrias scowled at the three, no, at one of the men waiting.
"What's going on? It's been nearly an hour!"
"Don't be rude to the princess, Gafgarion."
"Is the going to be all right, Agrias? This is an urgent issue for us."
"So there are rude knaves even among the Hokuten?" Honestly, she couldn't stand the man, great warrior or no. He did everything for money, had no respect for the Royal Family, and was too cunning for his own good.
In turn, Gafgarion couldn't abide Agrias and her absolute loyalty and dedication. Why waste your skills protecting an adopted Princess? Ovelia wasn't even the rightful heir. "I'm being more than kind to the guard captains here. Besides, we're mercenaries hired by the Hokuten. I'm not obliged to show respect to you."
"What? How dare you!"
The sound of approaching riders made them fall silent. Agrias gripped her sword as they came into view. A Knight, a Chemist, and a few Archers riding Chocobos. The Knight wore the crest of the Black Lion; these were Prince Goltana's men.
"Princess, go back inside and stay there." Agrias said and moved in front of her as the others tensed, ready for battle.
Ovelia cast an anxious look at the riders before being assisted back inside by one of her guards.
Agrias felt less troubled now that the princess was safely inside the monastery. Her acute hearing picked up the whispered conversation between Gafgarion and one of his men and the feeling came back.
"Ramza, you have a problem too?"
The man paused a moment before answering, "I'm no longer a Knight, just a mercenary like you."
Gafgarion noticed her listening on to them and said in a louder voice, "Here they come."
The riders halted before them and dismounted. Agrias walked forward to meet them. "The crest of the Black Lion?! What is Prince Goltana thinking?! Does he want to start a war?!"
The Knight sneered at her, "Knave! There's no point in resisting! Just give us the Princess, or that beautiful face of yours will be scarred forever!"
Gafgarion snorted with contempt. "Fools! Only idiots attack head on!"
Agrias stepped in front of the Dark Knight, "Leave this to me!"
"We can't make money that way!" he insisted, "Rad, Ramza! Follow me!"
They readied their weapons, Agrias prepared her Statis Sword when Ovelia's voice cried out.
"Let go of me!"
"Damn!!" Agrias swore and raced back inside the monastery, only to see Ovelia struggling with an unknown man.
"Come here! Be quiet!"
"Why should I listen to you?!"
The Knight regarded her irritably. "What an annoying Princess." He clenched his hand into a fist and drove it below her ribcage, catching her limp body as she fell unconscious. He slung her over the back of a Chocobo as Agrias appeared.
He mounted the Chocobo and looked back at her. "Tough Don't blame us. Blame yourself, or God."
"Oh, God "
Ramza saw the Knight ride off with the Princess with a shocked expression. " Delita? You're alive, Delita? But, why are you in Goltana's troops? Why ?"
A Year Before
"I heard another wagon bound for Igros was attacked."
"Must have been the Death Corps "
The Military Academy Auditorium was full of new cadets, chatting incessantly of the current news.
Ramza Beoulve was one such cadet, sixteen years of age and the youngest son of the noble Beoulve family. His father and two elder brothers were well-known war heroes from the 50-Year War, and although he never voiced his feelings, he felt somewhat out of place with them.
"Something's starting Know anything, Delita?"
He turned to his best friend, Delita Hyral. Unlike Ramza, Delita was common-born, but was enrolled at the Academy by his father's request. Despite the rank difference, the two were close friends.
"No But I can guess."
The others fell silent, eager to hear any news regarding the current conflicts.
Ramza pressed him for more information, "What do you mean?"
"Prince Larg's coming to town."
"Prince Larg? Why?"
Delita shrugged, "Not only Larg, but Marquis Elmdor of Limberry, too."
"That's news! It's not an official visit, is it?"
New murmuring broke out in the crowd.
"There are danger zones everywhere in Ivalice. The Hokuten Knights are in full operation, but suffering from a shortage of men."
Ramza nodded, "So they need us cadets."
"Everyone, fall in!"
They broke their gossip to fall in formation as one of the Hokuten Knights appeared.
"You have a mission! As you know, barbarians are rapidly increasing here in Gallionne. The traitorous Death Corps detest the royal family. We cannot overlook them. We will begin exterminating these traitors. By order of our Master. Larg's Knights stationed at Igros Castle and many other groups will participate. Your duty is to support the flank. Specifically, you'll go to Igros and help guard it."
Igros Ramza thought, I'll be able to see Dycedarg, Zalbag, and Alma again. His two brothers and younger sister would want to know how he was doing anyway.
Everyone shifted as a female Knight came in and whispered to her comrade.
He nodded and turned to face them again. "Cadets, ready your swords! A gang of tortured thieves is trying to sneak into this town. We'll begin preparations now to keep them out of town! Come with me! This is the frontline of operations! That's all! Prepare immediately!"
Outside, a group of thieves were about to leave the town when Ramza and the others stopped them.
The criminals weren't too impressed with the young cadets, growing even angrier as they discovered Ramza was one of the acclaimed Beoulves.
"Beoulve!? THE Beoulve family!? So, you must be cadets from the military academy! Snot-nosed little nobles!"
"Silence! Surrender or die in obscurity!"
"What can a bunch of kids like you do? Bunch'a spoiled punks like you will never beat us!" the thief spat.
Ramza shook his head, they just didn't understand.
After the battle he looked at their still forms with regret. "Why do you continue to commit acts like robbery? You wouldn't have died this way if you'd led an honest life "
"Ramza!" Delita hissed, "there's only four bodies!"
They all tensed, were was the last one?
One of the female Squires, Sabrina, pointed to the roof, "There!"
The dark form took off and she followed, dagger in hand.
Ramza shouted after her, "Wait! We should--"
"I can handle it!" she replied determinedly.
There was a clash of steel, then a scream.
Ramza ran to his comrade as Delita took out the remaining thief. "Hold on! Just a little bit more!" He glanced up to see Vincent, one of their Chemists, digging through his pouch for a Potion.
Sabrina clutched at him weakly, pleading. "I don't want to die " she coughed, blood flecking her lips and tears glistening at the corners of her eyes. "I just wanted to be a famous like, like you " Her head rolled to the side and her body became limp.
Vincent felt for a pulse and shook his head.
Ramza shuddered and lowered his gaze, feeling the guilt wash over him instantly.
The next day they were ready to head for Igros Castle.
"We'll be passing through the Mandalia Plains." Delita said as he led Ramza through town.
He blinked, "So ? Where are you taking me? We've bought everything we could afford."
Delita shook his head, "We still have some gil left."
Ramza dug his feet into the street, "Wait! Then why didn't we buy that Broad Sword we could use?"
The dark-haired man sighed, "The Plains are always full of monsters and passing thieves, we're also short one man. I thought it would be a good idea to hire a soldier."
Ramza grimaced, remembering Sabrina's death. She had looked up to him, and it had been his responsibility to take care of her, but
"Hey Hey!" Delita snapped his fingers in front of Ramza's face. "What's done is done. We gotta move on now, and I don't want to be wandering through those Plains in the dark." In a softer tone he added, "It wasn't your fault."
"But I should have--"
"Look, we're here. Just help me hire someone, okay?"
Seeing it was pointless to press this any further, Ramza agreed.
and he regretted that agreement as soon as he walked into the Soldier Office
Eager to please, the Head Master offered to show them what each of his soldiers could do and led them to the training hall. As soon as they appeared, the cadets scrambled to their feet, weapons ready. As their boss explained who their customers were their eyes grew wide.
Ramza cringed mentally, they all looked so hopeful. Now he understood why Delita wanted his "help".
"Couldn't manage this on your own, then?" he whispered and elbowed Delita in the ribs.
His friend looked at him with mock indignity. "You want to do this by yourself? Be my guest."
He chuckled softly, might as well choose someone randomly. Watching them any longer would only make him feel bad.
Suddenly the door of the training hall was flung open and a girl burst through. "Sir! There's been an injury! Marcus was beating up on Will again and !" She leaned on the doorframe, gasping for air, "Please, he really hurt him this time!"
The Master growled under his breath. "Is it that bad? I have important customers here right now "
Her eyes welled up with threatening tears, "I, I can't tell, there's so much blood Anna said if he didn't get help he could he could die!"
The large man frowned, "Anna she was training to become a Chemist I believe All right, I'll be there in a second." He bowed apologetically to Ramza, "Forgive this interruption, I assure you not all the soldiers are like this." With that said, he hurried off.
The hall was silent after his departure, an uneasiness filling the air. One by one, applause rang out in the crowd and the girl straightened, a pleased smile on her face.
Ramza glanced at his friend, confused, but Delita just shook his head. Neither of them had any idea what was going on.
The girl walked forward, calm but with a sharp light in her eye. She stopped in front of one cadet, her smile turning wicked. "I hope you appreciate all that work I did to get the old man out of here. Now," she unsheathed a long sword that was strapped to her waist, "are you ready, Nathan of Tergoth, for that duel you promised yesterday?"
The cadet, Nathan, ground his teeth furiously. "You know it is against Master's rules."
"Now that's a bloody shame, you should have thought of that before challenging me. I also recall a rule stating that 'No cadet, common or nobly born shall inflict insult on another cadet of correspondent level.'"
"Bootlicking commoner! It's a pity you weren't drowned at birth!"
"Likewise, you snotty little upstart bastard son of a noble!"
"SHUT UP!" Nathan swung his sword in a wild arc, sparks flying as it was blocked by the girl's blade.
The others had now formed a ring around them, some cheering and urging them on.
"Who are you calling a bastard?!" Nathan snarled and stepped back. "At least my mother wasn't some whore on the streets, willing to sleep with anyone with a single gil!"
Their blades locked again, but this time the girl lost some ground by the sheer force of Nathan's blow. "You leave my Mother out of this, sonofa--"
"Enough of this!"
Ramza hooked his sword under Nathan's, flicking it out of the young man's grasp while catching hold of the girl's sword arm. "Lay down your weapon at once!"
She glared at him, "Never! I'll never take orders from a Noble as long as I live!" She tried to wrestle free, but Ramza's grip was strong. "Damn you, let go!"
He glared back, "Not until you surrender your weapon."
After twisting a bit longer, she finally let her sword clatter to the floor. He released her, and she backed away, breathing heavily.
"Now," he began, calmer this time, "Mind telling me what this is all about?"
"I do mind and I won't tell you."
He sighed, this was turning out to be a long day.
Delita stepped in front of him. "What's your name?" When she glared at him too he raised his hands in defense. "I'm not of Noble blood, just a commoner like you. Will you talk with me?"
Warily she answered, " Sarra." She looked at him curiously, "You are ?"
"I'm Delita Hyral." He jerked his thumb in Ramza's direction, "and that's my friend, Ramza Beoulve."
Sarra's face contorted into a grimace. "A Noble, as I thought. Worst kind too." She snickered when Ramza frowned. "Aw, don't like that? Well, I'll have you know--"
She grabbed her sword and leapt to her feet, only to drop it again when she saw the Master stalking towards her, his face turning a blotchy red.
"You little whelp! How DARE you speak in such a way to a customer! ESPECIALLY a Noble! And pulling a sword on me! Sarra, you are expelled from this Training School! Perhaps a few more years on the streets will teach you your place!"
"I always knew you were that type, old man! Damn hypocrite! I'll be glad to leave, I'm much better off on my own!" She walked past him, head held high.
"Ah, actually " Delita stopped her with a hand on her arm, "Sir, before you her go, we'll take her."
The Master, Ramza and Sarra all looked at him in disbelief. "WHAT?!"
"We'll pay 2,000 gil."
"Delita Are you MAD?! 2,000 gil for her?!"
He ignored Ramza's shock. "Take it or leave it, either way she'll be out of your hands."
The Master regained his composure and looked from Sarra back to Delita. "Done It's done!"
"NO!" Sarra wrenched herself free. "I'm not being sold like cattle to a Noble! Never for a Noble, never for a Noble's money, I won't!"
Not generally looking forward to traveling with an anti-aristocrat Ramza hissed to his friend, "Delita, why do we want---"
"What d'you think I am?! An animal?! Ya'can't sell me off! Not to a bloody Beoulve, ya'can't!"
One last attempt to win her freedom Sarra shouted, "One condition! My friend, Tess, you have to get her out of this hellpit too! That'll be another 2,000 gil!"
Ramza couldn't believe what he was hearing, "Delita, we don't have that much money."
"As a matter of fact, Ramza, we do. Turns out there was also a reward to those thieves the other day, I collected it this morning."
Her confident grin dropped, "What?! No!"
The Master growled, "Get out of my Hall, little whelp, and take your friend with you."
Sarra looked at him, then at Ramza. "I can't "
Tess pushed her way through the crowd to rest a hand on Sarra's shoulder, "Give it up, Sar. Surely, your pride can handle this."
Finally, her shoulders slumped in defeat.
Tess smiled, "Shall we go now?"
"I'll go, damnit. I'll go with the bloody Beoulve and his bloody friend, just get me out of this goddamn town."
She chuckled and patted her arm, "That's the spirit."
Sarra snarled and batted away her hand, stalking towards the main entrance. She turned to glare at the others, "Are we going or not? Hmph, bloody Nobles "
Ramza rubbed his face wearily, wondering if Vincent had anything for headaches. "What does that blasted girl have against me?"
Tess grinned, "Oh, she just has something against the blue-blooded in general. You're not the only one she's blown up at, although you are the only ones she's agreed to go with. I suppose that's something."
"I suppose so," he muttered with an edge of sarcasm.
Delita shook his head at Ramza's low attitude. "I'm sure you'll get used to her being around, because she's going with us to Igros."
"I think I'll just avoid the girl and that tongue of hers."
Tess nodded sagely, "A very wise decision."
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